Directed By: Brad Furman
Written By: Ellen Brown Furman
Based On The Book By/on: Robert Mazur
Cinematography By: Joshua Rais
Editor: Luis Carballer, Jeff McEvoy & David Rosenbloom
Cast: Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, Amy Ryan, Jason Issacs, Olympia Dukakis, Jospeh Gilgun, Juliet Aubrey, Yul Vasquez, Art Malik, Michael Pare, Said Taghmaoui, Elena Anaya, Carsten Hayes
A U.S. Customs official uncovers a money laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.
This movie doesn’t really present a story we haven’t seen many times, but for some odd reasons it keeps your interest thoroughly. As it is never boring and hits all the right spots. It’s no cinema classic but not unforgettable b-movie either. It more stays in the middle, but one of the elements that keeps this film afloat is the charm and panache of the cast.
Especially John Leguizamo and Bryan Cranston as a pair of mismatched agents. Leguizamo is believable and adds humor at times to his scenes but is serious when he needs to be and Cranston shows not only his talent and charisma but also for an actor is usually playing supporting and/or character roles in movies. He seems effortless in the lead. As his character has to be a chameleon he uses his natural acting skills to be believable here.
In Cranston’s performance though it might seem a bit minor there is a definite moral core and code to him and his character that shines through. That feels strong and trustworthy. Even as straight laced as he comes off earlier. Even when down and dirty undercover he comes across strong and trustworthy. This is a performance you think about more afterwards then during.
While the film is good and believable. It feels slightly like a step down for the actors. Who deserve to be in a film that feels a little more tight then loose at times around the edges. As this already feels like a second hand high concept 90’s drama. It also feels a bit like overkill at the time when there seem to be so many projects revolving around Pablo Escobar and his cartel. This just feels like the no frills version a bit, Less prestige.
The film starts off grand and then seems to settle into the story quietly with little to no background or laying and groundwork. As it already knows what type of film it is and assumes the audience does to. So it feels safe in proceeding. But doesn’t outdo it by go by on overdrive as far as try by to keep up with facts and reenactments.
It’s tense when it needs to be and doesn’t try to distract with too much style. Which most films of this type try to be and end up hurting themselves by trying to do too much (BLOW)
The film tries to ground itself or it’s character by reminding us of the undercover agents home life. To remind us of his regular him drum life and have family and exactly what is at stake and might be risking it all for. Which also sets up a nice contrast when he becomes friends with Benjamin Bratt’s character and see’s he has a family like his and what he will eventually lose when he has to bust him. It’s necessary even if at times it feels more tacked on.
The film keeps it simple as there feels like there is no lead up, but leaves it up to us in the audience to figure out. So it’s never too confusing. The one thing the film offers is more of a Broader different point of view. Even if the whole operation for the lead is one of those typical one Last job before retirement deals. Where you end up car g about certain nefarious characters despite their darker sides in actions and career.
The film lives up to it’s title as a kind of typical undercover infiltration scenario where the characters run the risk of getting too close to who they are investigating and developing feelings that make it difficult to stay professional.
Ultimately this is a movie about friendship and betrayal. As the characters undercover develop partnerships and friendship with not only these men but their families and in the end they are planning their demise by arresting them. That is a heavy burden to carry and in his performance and in the film you can tell how cool he acts even when in his mind he must be going crazy over the things that can and do go wrong.
What works especially in this film is that the operation is low budget and kind of assembled and that is how the film comes across also, filled with so many different random elements but works immensely. While his family life and wife back home sheds light similarly to DONNIE BRASCO, it also offer that hidden melodrama that most films and television shows choose to skip over or don’t have time for.
When it comes to films like these. They seem to depend on not only how the subjects are handled but also how the chemistry works with the actors. Nice to see the partners unsteady and mismatched at first but grow on one another and must depend on each other just for survival.