Lawrence Toppman

Old-fashioned ‘Infiltrator’ hits its marks

There’s not much new to “The Infiltrator” – perhaps nothing, except the setting of the climax – but the vintage stuff is satisfying.

Once again we enter the conflicted world of a good guy, undercover narcotics agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston), who begins to have a crisis of conscience about the charming bad guys he’s expected to bust in the 1980s.

He’s teamed with the inevitable foxy rookie (Diane Kruger) and a loyal but off-the-wall partner liable to act up (John Leguizamo). His marriage begins to fall apart, as he spends more time away from home and gets deeper into his role as a money launderer.

Meanwhile, the main spokesperson for the Medellin cocaine cartel (Benjamin Bratt) has monologues about the law of supply and demand – it’s the addicts’ fault laws get broken – and insists our economy would collapse if the Federal Reserve Bank turned away illegally obtained Colombian money. (Would real villains bother to justify their crimes?)

All familiar stuff, then, but executed with flair by director Brad Furman from a script by his mother, Ellen Brown Furman. She adapted a memoir by Mazur, who naturally comes off here as a stalwart fellow who makes no significant mistakes or misjudgments.

Furman has chosen well in all significant supporting parts, from Olympia Dukakis as Mazur’s flamboyant (what else?) aunt to Juliet Aubrey as his long-suffering wife. Yul Vasquez adds spice in the ill-defined role of an effete Colombian crook, though his fate made no sense to me.

Cranston has already proved he can carry the main role in a film where acting doesn’t matter (“Godzilla”) and where it matters a great deal (“Trumbo,” which didn’t offer much beyond his Oscar-nominated work). “The Infiltrator” falls between those two: He has to hold our interest and sympathy, but complicated events keep the movie from becoming a character study.

At 60, Cranston has become an actor more in demand than almost any in Hollywood; he’s scheduled to appear in eight releases this year. His craggy face and mellow baritone voice don’t show signs of tiring audiences yet, and he has one quality few actors achieve at any age: He’s eloquent in stillness and silence.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

The Infiltrator

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Kruger, John Leguizamo, Benjamin Bratt.

Director: Brad Furman.

Length: 127 minutes.

Rating: R (strong violence, language throughout, some sexual content and drug material).