THE INFILTRATOR (5.5 out of 10) Directed by Brad Furman; Written by Ellen Sue Brown, based on the book by Robert Mazur; Starring Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger and Benjamin Bratt; Running time 127 minutes; Rated R for strong violence, language throughout, some sexual content and drug material; In wide release July 13, 2016.

Undercover cop movies are almost always exciting. The intensity and fear that escalate as the protagonist gets deeper and deeper in cover is rarely boring and generally makes for fantastic entertainment. While “The Infiltrator” definitely develops some of this tension, it somehow manages to lack any sort of danger and leads to an anticlimactic resolution. Even top notch acting can’t overcome a badly paced story that will leave people looking at their watch wondering when it will all finally be over.

It’s the beginning of the War on Drugs, and U.S. Customs Service special agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) is doing his part undercover to make small busts that will hopefully lead them up the food chain to bigger and better dealers. On the eve of his retirement, he chooses to go through it all one last time in the hopes of taking down a big cartel once and for all. He realizes that they’ve been going at it all wrong – instead of chasing the drugs, go after the money! Donning the alias Bob Musella, he is joined by partner Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) who introduces him to some two bit dealers who eventually get him in touch with their bosses. It’s not long until Musella’s money laundering skills gain him entry into the Pablo Escobar cartel where he has the chance to not only bring them down by also the Bank of Credit and Commerce International which has been funneling billions in illicit funds for them.

It’s worth noting that the acting on display is nearly worth the price of admission alone. Cranston is at his best here and certain moments easily elicit memories of his past performance on “Breaking Bad.” Considering he’s performing in a “play within a play”, it’s both interesting and fun to see him change roles from a normal person stuck in extreme circumstances to a hard-nosed badass. John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger and the rest all perform admirably as well, but in the end, the movie isn’t strong enough to hang just off their performances.

As long as this film it, it’s somewhat mind boggling to see that it had three editors. Not only does it linger too long on most scenes, but there is a ton of exposition and explanation that should have been excised to tighten up such a plodding story. As much fun as it is to see John Leguizamo strutting his stuff on screen, his part was merely window dressing and was mostly irrelevant to the plot 15 minutes in. Why they wasted more time on him and his tangential story is beyond me.

There is rarely ever a sense of danger to what Mazur is doing either. Going undercover into one of the world’s biggest drug cartels has to be life threatening, so why do such consequences only rear their heads once and then for nary a few minutes. If anything, it makes money laundering about as exciting as an accountant doing someone’s taxes.

“The Infiltrator” is a laundry list of dos but mainly don’ts of the filmmaking process. Hiring amazingly talented actors who consistently deliver top notch performances will improve nearly any project they are on. However, even that can’t overcome weak directing, horrible editing and a plot that meanders on far too long and makes the audience lose interest. Fans of the genre should instead revisit “The Departed” or “Donnie Brasco” instead of this convoluted mess.

5.5 out of 10

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Tags: Bryan Cranston , war on drugs , john leguizamo , pablo escobar