Generally speaking, when you do well in your job, you earn well-deserved recognition. But sometimes, getting better at your job requires getting better at not being recognized.
Such is the case with Robert Mazur.
Bob's a special agent for the U.S. Customs Service. His specialty? Pretending to be a big-time money launderer for the Mob. His targets? Unsuspecting drug kingpins (and their unsuspecting underlings) in South Florida, a region virtually synonymous with cocaine distribution in the mid-1980s.
Bob excels at earning trust. At working his way inside coke-pedaling operations to nail the dealers before they even know what happened.
But it's stressful work, a deceptive vocation that constantly leaves Bob at risk of violent reprisals should his identity be compromised. "It's the little things that get you killed," he tells a colleague. It's no wonder his marriage to his wife, Evelyn, is badly strained. It's no wonder that Bob's considering taking the lucrative retirement package being dangled in front of him.
Except that, well, like an aging star quarterback or pro point guard, Bob's not quite ready to walk away from the game that he plays so very well. So when another agent, Emir Abreu, tells Bob he's got a line out for some very big drug-dealing fish—a line he needs Bob's help to reel in—the almost-retired agent decides to give it a go one last time.
It turns out to be the undercover operation of a lifetime, one that leads virtually all the way to the top of the Columbian cocaine-cartel food chain: Pablo Escobar.
Of course, trying to outwit one of the biggest international crime kingpins of the 20th century is a high-stakes gambit. And one wrong word could spell a nasty end to Bob Mazur's game of charades.
There are very few contexts in which being a world-class deceiver might be considered a good thing. But Bob's job is arguably one of them. The aging agent knows how to lie, to pretend, to gain trust, to infiltrate organizations that never suspect he's anything other than the big money-laundering fish he pretends to be. It takes tremendous courage for Bob (along with several of his fellow agents) not to flinch as he inches his way ever deeper into Escobar's organization.
In significant ways, Bob is shown to be a man of character and integrity. While undercover, a drug dealer offers him the "gift" of a stripper who's willing to do anything. Bob, who's married, refuses to take advantage of the woman, and makes up a story about being engaged to try to cover his unwillingness to indulge.
That fib forces the Customs Service to assign him a pretty young partner named Kathy to play the role of his fiancée, which she does with verve. For much of the film, Bob and Kathy practically live in the same space, yet Bob resists the temptation to cheat (though that temptation is strong in one scene).
Bob and Kathy become close friends with the head of Escobar's U.S. operations and his wife, Roberto and Gloria Alcaino. The movie realistically depicts the emotional toll that feigning friendship—friendship that in many ways becomes real—takes on Bob and Kathy in their elaborate sting operation. Roberto says of them, "Without family or friends, what kind of world would this be? There would be no reason to be alive." The film suggests, albeit subtly, that pretending to be someone you're not—even for noble purposes—nevertheless damages those who do it.
Bob, Kathy and Emir take enormous risks for each other in the process of insinuating themselves ever more deeply into Escobar's network.
A disturbing, bloody voodoo ceremony (which includes a chicken having its head wrung off) supposedly reveals whether or not someone is telling the truth about his identity. Amid the voodoo imagery is a statue of Mary.
Emir wears a cross. Someone holds forth on the importance of the Bible and church, saying, "If it wasn't for church, the whole place would die." He's talking about the importance of the Ten Commandments, "Don't steal, don't lie," and criticizing culture for "sucking on the t-t of the golden calf" when he's unexpectedly gunned down.
Kathy tells Roberto that a psychic once taught her to read palms. She reads Roberto's palm and says he's a man of destiny. Roberto and his wife seem to be practicing Catholics. They pray before meals, and Roberto justifies his profession by saying of those who purchase his product, "God gave us free will." He also asks, "Who am I to stand in the way" of those who choose to "destroy themselves" by using cocaine.
We hear sarcasm involving Jesus and the phrase "Bible Belt." A banker who's clearly intoxicated by power brags about how God has blessed his corrupt crooked bank: "We live each day in divinity. … God's providence pours into us. We are truly blessed."
One scene takes place in a strip club with a stage full of topless women painted in various neon colors (which somewhat obscure their nudity). A scene at another strip club shows dancers' nearly nude backsides. (Most wear skimpy thongs or lingerie.) Still another such scene in a French burlesque club involves what seem to be completely nude dancers covering themselves strategically with large feathers and pasties. Elsewhere, we see a bit of a man's bare backside as someone tries to find money he's stashed in his underwear.
A woman at a strip club explicitly performs a sex act on a drug dealer as he talks with Bob. A scantily clad stripper tries to undo Bob's pants, but he stops her and whispers that he doesn't want things to go any further. Emir mocks Bob for his unwillingness to embrace the role of being a promiscuous playboy, suggesting that "perk" is one of the best parts of their undercover job.
After witnessing a murder right next to them, shaken Bob and Kathy (who are pretending to be engaged and sharing a room at a hotel) embrace in shock and are on the verge of kissing when Bob pulls away from her. Bob and his real wife, Evelyn, kiss a couple of times.
A waitress serving Bob (who's posing as drug dealer) hints she'd be willing to trade sexual favors for cocaine.
A key Escobar henchman is bisexual, making out passionately with an ever-present female companion and hitting brazenly on several men, too (including Bob). One of Escobar's men suggests that Bob will have to let the man have sex with him in order to secure the dealer's trust (which, before it turns out to be a joke, is something Bob vehemently says he won't do). Crude dialogue references graphic sexual acts, including a joke about bestiality with a goat. There's also a joke about Bob "coming out of the closet" where he's hiding and secretly taping a conversation.
Three times, Bob is right next to someone who's unexpectedly shot and killed. One of those shootings takes out the driver of the car Bob's riding in; a car-flipping accident ensues that leaves him covered with blood (his own and his friend's). We watch Bob try mightily to scrub all the blood off of his face and out of his hair in the shower, then watch bloody water swirling down the drain. Emir, likewise, witnesses a drug dealer turning unexpectedly on an associate, shooting and killing the man in cold blood. Elsewhere, several other people are shot in firefights with authorities.
Bob receives a warning from Escobar in the mail. It's an envelope with a small casket full of blood and, apparently, a body part. (We only see Bob's horrified face, not the contents of the blood-drenched box.) Bob's young daughter is, disturbingly, the one who notices that the envelope is dripping blood. An associate says that if Bob fails and Escobar discovers his real identity, the infamous drug lord will force Bob to watch them torture and murder his family before he's killed last. (The man says, among other things, that his son will be decapitated and that they'll cut his wife's breasts off before killing her.)
Emir puts a plastic bag over someone's head, beats him repeatedly and slams him into a toilet. Bob has a brief, intense physical altercation with an informant. A microphone wire on Bob's chest heats up and melts, badly burning him. Drug busts involve physical melees between police and criminals.
Crude or Profane Language
Nearly 90 f-words, at least five of which are paired with "mother." About 30 s-words. Gods' name is abused ten times (thrice paired with "d--n"), while Jesus' name is misused about half a dozen times. Anatomical slang ("c--k," "d---," "p---y," "t-ts") is used ten or so times total. Other vulgarities include "p-ss," "d--n," "h---," "a--" and "a--hole."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Characters smoke cigarettes and cigars, and they drink different alcoholic beverages throughout the film. Some are shown drunk, including one mid-level lackey whom Escobar's henchmen murder because of his perpetual intoxication and the compromising things he says and does under the influence.
Someone smokes what appears to be a marijuana joint while driving. Bob, pretending to be a drug dealer, shows a waitress a small vial of cocaine he's got in his pocket. Still pictures and montages depicts hundreds of kilos of cocaine wrapped in plastic and stacked like bricks. We're told that at the height of the illicit '80s cocaine trade, dealers stealthily managed to move 15 tons of the white powder through South Florida every week. One of Bob's fellow agents suggests that having to snort cocaine (which we never actually see) is just a part of the job.
Other Negative Elements
A potentially compromising situation while Bob is trying to celebrate his anniversary with his wife requires him to treat a waiter terribly in order to hide his true identity. (He verbally berates the poor server and rams his head into a cake.)
One scene takes place at a dog racing track. Someone makes a joke about flatulence.
If Bob Mazur (who, ironically, is played by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston) has a career philosophy, it might be this nugget he dispenses to a coworker regarding cover stories: "Stay close to the truth, it makes it easier to lie." It's a philosophy that's served him well and perhaps protected his integrity at some level, too.
Then again, perhaps not.
The Infiltrator ushers us into a grim, violent, amoral world in which one man strives to do the right thing—capturing vile criminals—by pretending to do some pretty vile stuff himself.
It's clear that the lifestyle has taken a toll on his marriage, which nearly collapses under the weight of Bob's extraordinarily demanding and dangerous job. It's equally clear that Bob is striving mightily to preserve some shred of his humanity, even as he bears witness to some of the most inhumane things imaginable.
What about us, the would-be viewers of Bob Mazur's morally murky story? Do we need to wade through the brutal, cocaine-laced underworld that Bob Mazur inhabits in order to fully understand that such a gritty, merciless, immoral world exists? One that, thankfully, most of us are never exposed to?
I'll leave you to ponder those questions yourself.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Bryan Cranston as Robert Mazur; Juliet Aubrey as Evelyn Mazur; John Leguizamo as Emir Abreu; Benjamin Bratt as Roberto Alcaino; Elena Anaya as Gloria Alcaino; Diane Kruger as Kathy Ertz; Yul Vazquez as Javier Ospina; Rubén Ochandiano as Gonzalo Mora Jr.; Amy Ryan as Bonni Tischler; Olympia Dukakis as Aunt Vicky
Broad Green Pictures
July 13, 2016
October 11, 2016