Monday, July 11, 2016

The Infiltrator

A strenuously sold yet inert string of anecdotes from a nonfiction book about a high-stakes undercover DEA operation, Brad Furman's The Infiltrator is all revving engines and no momentum. Interpersonal dynamics that might have helped propel the plot wind up in cul-de-sacs: When suburban dad and DEA undercover agent Bob Mazur (Bryan Cranston) gets paired up with scruffy, fast-and-loose Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), their odd-couple friction might be expected to lead to clashes over strategy or execution, but aside from the unstable informant who Emir refuses to cut loose despite Bob's qualms, their differences never seem much more than cosmetic. Similarly, the sexual tension between Bob and Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), the inexperienced but savvy agent who's the third participant in the sting operation Bob is heading, plays out more as a Hollywood trope than a lived-in reality, though it's apparently enough of a threat to Bob's wife, Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey), to contribute to her decision to temporarily leave her husband.

Audiences are meant to understand that Bob resists Kathy's charms because he loves his family, but we're left to take that love on faith, since Bob's family life is represented by a handful of tableaux that play out like the background action in a cereal ad. Rarely given more than a line or two of dialogue per scene, Aubrey gallantly tries to convey the strain put on Evelyn's marriage by her husband's job with facial expressions and body language, morphing from concerned yet supportive to hurt and rejecting to reassured and reconciled.

Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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