Search:

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Infiltrator

“The Legend of Tarzan” and the female-led “Ghostbusters” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Typically in stories of undercover criminal investigations, the focus is on the danger that the undercover agent is in. It’s inherent to what they’re doing—pretending to be someone they’re not in order to gain access to a criminal underworld and learn their secrets. What’s less discussed are the personal, emotional ramifications that the undercover work has on the agent.

In “The Infiltrator,” the criminal underworld is that of drug trafficking. Specifically, the trafficking of drugs from Colombia on behalf of Pablo Escobar. The money for this drug trade must be laundered, naturally, and that is where U.S. Customs agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) comes in. He pretends to be a broker who can secure a deal between the Escobar cartel and banks in Florida to launder Escobar’s money and move it out of the country for him.



Due to a slip of the tongue after being caught off guard, part of Mazur’s undercover story is that he has a fiancée. That part is played by fellow agent Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger). Mazur’s real life wife Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey) doesn’t care for this arrangement, and the natural doubts and suspicions ensue.

Mazur and Ertz’s assignment is to get to know wealthy and powerful Escobar liaison Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt) and his wife, Gloria (Elena Anaya). The heart of the movie is seeing these two couples enjoy spending time together—at each other’s houses, having dinner, going shopping—doing all of the things that couples say and do when they get together. The one major difference is that in this case, one of the couples is not who they say they are. Let’s also not forget, the other couple is a major player in flooding the streets of the U.S. with cocaine.

That’s the big push and pull of the “The Infiltrator.” On one hand, Mazur and Ertz know that they’re just playing parts. They have a job to do. Their job is to get close to Alcaino and his wife, gather as much intel as they can, record as many conversations as they can, and deal a massive blow to the drug trade in the United States. On paper, the assignment is straightforward. In practice, however, it is much more difficult.


As Mazur and Ertz cozy up to the Alcainos, they get to know them as people. It’s hard for these agents to continue seeing the world as black/white and good/bad after they’ve shared dinner, laughs, and conversation in the home of the criminals they are tasked to bring down. The Alcainos have a teenage daughter, Bianca (Jordan Loughran). She’s a typical sullen teenager who thinks her parents are boring and lame. Mazur and Ertz meet her briefly, and suddenly the Alacainos become more complex. They’re not just criminals who need to be taken down. They’re real people with families who they love and want to protect. Taking down the Alcainos is no longer about just stopping the drug flow. It also involves tearing a family apart.

These are some nuanced notes to play, and writer Ellen Brown Furman, working from the book “The Infiltrator” by the real-life Robert Mazur, lays out those beats in the story very carefully. Cranston and Kruger’s performances at playing those moments are sorrowful and heart-wrenching. They’re doing what needs to be done. At the end of the day, the Alcainos implicated themselves by getting involved in the illegal drug trade. They knew what they were doing was wrong, and they really only have themselves to blame. Why is it then, that for Mazur and Ertz, doing such a right thing feels so dirty, and in a different way, just as wrong? Interesting question. You won’t find a better exploration of that theme than in “The Infiltrator.” Buy it on Amazon: The Infiltrator [Blu-ray].

Also Out This Week

The Legend of Tarzan

The main issue with “The Legend of Tarzan” can be summed up in the performance of its star, Alexander Skarsgård. He’s perfectly cast as Tarzan—the man seems born to play this role and he completely looks the part. However, there is something about his sullen, low-toned performance that feels disconnected. He doesn’t seem invested in the moment in the scenes he’s playing. For that matter, neither do Margot Robbie as Jane or Christoph Waltz as baddie Leon Rom. Everybody looks the part. They’re wearing the costumes and saying the lines. But there is something about the whole tone of the movie that just feels off, like the actors don’t really care and wish they were somewhere else.

This is the fault of the director, David Yates, too. He’s responsible for the feel of the movie. In this case, the feeling is “blah.” The one and only notable exception to this feeling is Samuel L. Jackson, who plays former Civil War soldier (the movie takes places circa 1890) George Washington Williams. Jackson seems committed, like he’s there to give it his all and play his part. While this is great for Jackson, the downside is that it highlights the shortcomings of the rest of the cast—and the movie.

Even the CGI is bland and superficial. With the exception of the gorilla family that raised Tarzan, they all look the same. Even Tarzan’s gorilla brother can only really be distinguished by a scar above his eye. The rest of the animals, particularly during a climactic stampede, look more “Jumanji” than they do “Jungle Book.” In this day and age we expect more—not only from our CGI, but from our movies on the whole. We deserve more too. Skip it.

Ghostbusters



This is a really hard one to review. On the one hand, I’m glad it tanked at the box office. The way that director Paul Feig and Sony executive Amy Pascal took to social media to demonize and insult anyone—particularly men—who dared to express doubts and concerns over the quality of their “Ghostbusters” reboot was outrageous and appalling.  Sure, there were some jerks out there who said stupid things. News flash: It’s the Internet, trolls exist, and there is such a thing as shit-posting (a term that I am sure will make its way into the dictionary very soon).

However, Feig and Pascal didn’t just go after the trolls. That would have been fine. They went after regular, ordinary, every day movie-goers who did nothing more than express opinions regarding the trailer that the jokes weren’t funny or the CGI was too colorful—comments of that nature. Instead of addressing those concerns and/or standing by their movie, Feig and Pascal decided to denigrate anyone who spoke out about their movie and unfairly label anyone who criticized it as sexist, misogynist, and whatever other regressive leftist ad hominems they decided to hurl at the movie’s detractors that day. It was completely inappropriate and uncalled for. It seems that they thought that they could actually treat people like this and audiences would still flock to their movie en masse. They thought wrong. The movie-going public fought back against the tired—and frankly just plain boring—rhetoric being spouted by Feig and Pascal the best way they can: with their wallets. It’s my belief that this movie would have done much better at the box office if Feig and Pascal had been open to having a mature dialogue with those criticizing it. Instead, they decided to sulk and lash out like children who didn’t get the candy they wanted at the store. For this, they got punished—as they should have. Their careers deserve to take a hit for their reprehensible behavior.

But this is all extraneous. What about the movie itself? Well, that’s the other hand—I liked it. The original “Ghostbusters” from 1984 is still one of my all-time favorites, and at this point, I am sure it always will be. While I wasn’t excited per se about the idea of seeing the franchise get a reboot, I don’t think that reboots and remakes are inherently a bad thing, so I gave this a chance like any other.

Truth be told, I was pleasantly surprised. This 2016 version shows a lot of deference to the 1984 original—little nods to it here and there are sprinkled throughout—while at the same time creating its own unique story with original characters and its own style. It’s a light, breezy, fun, entertaining movie, with some tongue in cheek running gags and some good comedy throughout. Much has been made of the CGI being too cartoony, but it never bothered me—even in the trailer—and that style of visual effects serves the movie much better than the darker special effects of the much moodier original movie.

So it’s tough. On the one hand it’s a good thing that this movie tanked because Feig and Pascal deserved to have it fail. It’s also a good lesson to anyone else who deals with the public that it is not wise to unfairly label an entire group of people and try to bully them into submission. Such efforts will be met with the opposite of the intended outcome—the people will fight back, say “no more,” and make sure you don’t get your way.

On the other hand, “Ghostbusters,” taken on its own, is actually a good movie. While it still doesn’t hold a candle to the original, taken on its own terms it is worth watching. Rent it.

More New Releases: “Ice Age: Collision Course,” overstuffed with way too many characters for such a simple movie, and going way off the rails (Scrat in space, anyone?), let’s hope that this “Ice Age” is the last; “Hillary’s America,” documentary movie maker Dinesh D’Souza’s analysis of the history of the Democratic Party and what he thinks are Hillary Clinton's true motivations; and “Blood Father,” starring Mel Gibson as an ex-con who has to protect his sixteen year old daughter from drug dealers out to kill her.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

Cron Job Starts