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The Infiltrator

Docudrama about a U.S. Customs agent who took on Pablo Escobar’s drug empire

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 “One wrong word, one slip.” That, says Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) — an undercover U.S. Customs officer, circa mid-1980s, working to break up drug lord Pablo Escobar’s money-laundering ring — is all it takes to blow an operation and get yourself killed.

Of course, we’ve heard that before, and we’ve seen The Infiltrator many times. But director Brad Furman’s procedural, based on the real-life Mazur’s autobiography, is a tense and entertaining version of the genre — that would have been much stronger as a miniseries. It’s a little more than two hours long, yet it still feels truncated, especially in the development of some crucial relationships.

Although the moody film looks good, the emphasis is less on docu and more on drama. Can undercover agents really be such gifted actors? Obviously so, because they pulled it off. (Most of the accented bad guys — except for Yul Vazquez as a sexually fluid Colombian dealer — seem to have watched too many movies about themselves.) Cranston is nuanced and absorbing, but the acting in The Infiltrator still needs to relax. That’s what eight hours on TV would have allowed. The film’s best moments are the ones where Mazur, a gentle family man in “real life,” persuades some of the world’s most dangerous people that he’s one of them.

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