Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Infiltrator

Alternate Title:  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

One sentence synopsis:    A US Customs Agent executes an undercover sting designed to bring down Pablo Escobar's drug cartel.

Things Havoc liked: I do like the format I customarily use for movie reviews, the "Things I liked" and "Things I Disliked" and so on, but I will admit that recently it's begun to feel a bit more constraining...

Things Havoc disliked: ... especially for movies like this one.

I'll be quick here, guys, The Infiltrator is a bad movie. Not an awful movie, not a disaster of a movie, not a movie that deserves to be written about in breathless horror, or savage, Churchillian rhetoric, just your run-of-the-mill, everyday, mediocre-to-bad movie, the sort that studios push out by the dozens every year. Its greatest sin is being boring and derivative, and taking few to no chances. It did not cause me to doubt the existence of a loving God, nor to consider the pros and cons of arson. It just made me want to be elsewhere.

But what is this movie, about which I assume none of you have heard anything? Well, it's a drug cartel drama about a man named Robert Mazur, an agent with the US Customs Service who, in the early-mid 80s, went undercover within the drug cartels operated by Pablo Escobar. Robert Mazur was a real guy, who wrote a real book on which this movie is based, and for the purposes of playing him and his associates in this movie, the filmmakers have acquired the services of Brian Cranston, who in a daring departure from his previous roles, is here playing a guy mixed up in drugs while trying to maintain his normal, middle-class life. He is joined by John Leguizamo, once one of the most annoying human beings on Earth, and Diane Kruger, as fellow undercover agents, and must go up against Benjamin Bratt, playing the head of Escobar's operations in Miami.

Honestly though, all of the above people are fine. Yes, Cranston is slumming it here (he was doing the same in 2014's Godzilla), but the fact that he can play this stuff in his sleep doesn't change the fact that he can play it. Leguizamo has long-since earned his way back into my good graces now that he's too old to play The Pest anymore, and while Krueger's not my favorite actress, she doesn't have enough of a role to make much of a difference here. Even Bratt, who is about as intimidating as a stuffed animal, is not the problem.

No, the problem here is Brad Furman, director of this film and largely nothing else with the exception of the McConaughey (and Cranston) vehicle The Lincoln Lawyer back in 2011. That movie was decent, but it was decent because of its cast, not its direction, which was lackluster and overshot. The Infiltrator is moreso, even, to the point where its cast cannot save it, and it is not helped by the fact that the film's script, written by Furman's mother Ellen, is a boring affair with no actual energy to it. Crime dramas are inherently dramatic, but they require more than simple A -> B -> C plotting like these, wherein every scene is measured out to give just enough family tension as the strains of undercover work take their toll, just enough veiled threats delivered by a charming bad guy who is doing quotidian things that could be interpretted as nasty, just enough scenes where the main hero must resist the seduction of the life of crime, etc etc. The film trots out the occasionally half-interesting supporting character, like Cranston's mob-connected Aunt, played by the wonderful Olivia Dukakis, but beyond establishing that she exists, does nothing whatsoever with her, and forgets about her halfway through the movie. Each scene, stolen from better movies, feels like it was copied from a "Crime Drama Writing for Dummies" book, all the way through until the movie reaches the end it was fated to reach from the beginning. Roll credits.

Final thoughts:   Apologies for those looking for more thunderous fury from me, but the fact is that The Infiltrator doesn't merit even as much effort as I've put into it already. It is a completely forgettable movie which only manages to stand out by virtue of just how boring it actually is. I was reading articles on my phone at the back of my mostly-empty theater more than an hour before the end, glancing up every so often just to ensure that, yep, the movie was still running.

Movies can be bad for many reasons, dear readers, but the sad fact is that some bad movies are bad simply because they haven't the wit, skill, or guts to be terrible.

Final Score:  4/10

Next Time:  A month like this demands some radical changes.  Maybe it's time for something more animated...

1 comment:

  1. John Leguizamo's no longer being the physical incarnation of irritation is more than a function of his age. Evidently, when he was making movies such as The Pest, he was doing so out of a kind of protest. He sought more serious roles, but was consistently offered only "Generic Latino Stereotype", so instead he channeled his inner Carrot Top. I'm not sure it was the most effective form of protest, but in any case the times have (slightly) changed, sufficiently that he can get real roles that aren't pure racism. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily mean the movies he gets to be in now will be any good. Alas.


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