I liked this movie because the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. There is no moral equivalence here. Robert Mazur, the real-life U.S. Customs agent who risked his life and those of his family members to serve our country, is a decent honorable man. He refuses to cheat on his wife, even when duty “requires” it while working undercover.
Bryan Cranston is Mazur and undercover operative who brings down drug dealers and kingpins. He has the opportunity to retire after an on-the-job injury and many years of hard work. But, instead, Mazur agrees to pose as an accountant who money-launders cash. The movie follows Customs’ “Operation C-Chase,” in which Mazur and his fellow agents helped the U.S. government bring down major players in Pablo Escobar’s and Manuel Noriega’s drug rings, as well as the BCCI–the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, owned and run by Muslims. (Not shown in the movie is that the bank also laundered money for Islamic terrorists and corrupt Muslim regimes–a redundant phrases.) The operation was so successful that it took down 85 high-level drug cartel operatives and corrupt bankers (though I was amazed at the short sentences the men got, as described in a postscript at the end of the movie).
John Leguizamo plays Mazur’s partner in the operation, Emir Abreu. I’ve never been a fan of Leguizamo, but this role is custom-made for him. The beautiful Diane Kruger looks more stunning than ever here as Kathy Ertz, the agent who pretended to be Mazur’s fiancee in the undercover operation.
This movie is extremely violent (it is NOT for kids), but that’s necessary to show the ruthlessness of the men with whom Mazur was dealing and the risks he took to do his job and carry out this operation. These were dangerous, vicious savages who wouldn’t have hesitated to torture Mazur, his wife, and his young children to death. There are several suspenseful scenes showing us how easy it would have been for Mazur to have been discovered and murdered. And the movie does them well.
But the movie isn’t entirely serious. There are moments that are funny and light. And the movie is very entertaining from beginning to end. There’s never a dull moment, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. You will be, too. Yes, we’ve seen some of this story before, but I haven’t seen it told this well on the silver screen in a long time.
The acting in this is excellent, as is the attention to detail, including 1980s decor, clothing, cars, and pop culture, including the soundtrack. The script is written by 67-year-old first-timer Ellen Brown Furman, the retired trial lawyer mother of the movie’s director, Brad Furman. She captures well the angst and sorrow some federal agents feel at the end of their operations, as they’ve come to subconsciously “like” those whom they are ensnaring.
Also, I’d also be lying if I denied taking pride in the fact that two of the “good guys” in this movie are real-life Jewish Americans–Mazur and Bonni Tischler–who betray the lie that Jews aren’t tough guys serving America in federal law enforcement.
This movie is mostly true, and you can learn more about it at History vs. Hollywood. But don’t do so until after you’ve seen it because the site contains a lot of spoilers.
There are a few minor things I didn’t like about the movie. First, there’s the portrayal of an American businessman who was vital to the operation as a Black man. But, in fact, this man, who undertook great risks to his family to help the Customs agents (without earning a penny for it), was White in real life. More about him in another post later today. I hate fictional “diversity.” It’s simply fraud and never goes the other way (Owen Wilson will never be cast as Martin Luther King, Jr., I promise you).
I also didn’t care for the one-sided portrayal of Tischler, who was the Commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service at the time. The movie is based on Mazur’s memoir, The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel, and he and Tischler did not get along. She is portrayed as nearly ruining the entire operation and then taking credit for its success.
Tischler was the first female federal law enforcement agent to rise to head an agency, and her story is almost as interesting as the story told in this movie. As readers know, I’m no feminist and I loathe affirmative action based on female plumbing. But Tischler was not that kind of woman. She was tough and earned the job, having risen from the first female federal air marshal (then called a “sky marshal”) to leading some of the biggest, most successful law enforcement operations. She is played by Amy Ryan here, and is depicted at the time when she headed the U.S. Customs Service office in Tampa, Florida. I know many former Customs agents who worked with Bonni Tischler, and they liked her. Said one, “I know her well. She was a pit bull, so I’d be surprised that she would have messed up the operation [as portrayed in the movie].” Tischler died of breast cancer at age 60 in 2005, so she cannot defend herself.
Get Yours . . .
And finally, I could have done without the leftist-tinged, anti-American postscript at the end of the movie alleging that the U.S. used BCCI accounts to fund the Nicaraguan freedom fighters, a noble cause.
Other than that, it’s a great movie. And Robert Mazur– is a great American who, to date, cannot show his face because of the threats he continues to face for the excellent work he did. These drug cartels have long memories.