More than a year after filming at 28 sites around Tampa Bay, The Infiltrator finally hits theaters on Wednesday.
The true crime drama stars Bryan Cranston as real-life former special agent and Tampa resident Robert Mazur, whose memoir about about the money laundering investigation into Pablo Escobar's Medellin drug cartel inspired the film.
A local premiere was held at Tampa Theatre last week bringing Cranston, his co-star Benjamin Bratt and director Brad Furman to the red carpet event, and since then, mostly positive reviews have started to trickle in.
Here's what the critics are saying.
Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times
"So, where does The Infiltrator fit among modern-era movies filmed around Tampa Bay? It isn't blazingly artistic and empty like Spring Breakers, or built purely to crowdplease like Cocoon and Magic Mike. Or dumb like The Punisher. Even if Mazur could be found, tourists wouldn't flock to him like they do Winter the dolphin."
Instead, The Infiltrator is an evocative crime drama, anchored by Cranston's gift for playing internal conflict with wordless expression and that deep, clinched voice. Furman's direction wrestles a screenplay riddled with conformity to other undercover movies. Grown-up entertainment for a silly movie season." [Full review]
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
"It's a savory thing to watch an actor play a cop who really has to be an actor, improvising his way through one scary existential situation after another. Don Johnson had a lot of great moments doing it on "Miami Vice," and when you think back to the Johnny Depp performances that were still rooted in the real world, certainly one of the highlights was his intricate and mournful work as the undercover cop in "Donnie Brasco." But in "The Infiltrator," which is based on Mazur's memoir (adapted into an ingeniously layered script by Ellen Brown Furman), Bryan Cranston gives the most authentic and lived-in performance as an agent pretending to be a criminal that I have ever seen." [Full review]
Claudia Puig, The Wrap
Drug thrillers can be among the more predictable genres — plenty of sleaze, nasty threats and grisly whacking, and, of course, the obligatory scenes at strip clubs. "The Infiltrator" follows some of that played-out playbook, but also effectively dials up the nerve-wracking tension. What elevates it to a higher level is the quality of its key performances, by Cranston, Leguizamo, Kruger and Bratt. Amy Ryan is also top-notch in a smaller role as Bonni Tischler, the trio's brassy boss. One of the most memorable supporting performances comes from Yul Vazquez, as sociopathic money launderer Javier Ospina.
Director Brad Furman ("The Lincoln Lawyer") re-creates the mid-1980s with telling fashion and coiffure details, bolstered by a great funk soundtrack. [Full review]
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter
"In a movie that's ultimately about the performance aspect of spycraft and its psychological toll, (Cranston's) reactions and feints make for compelling viewing. They don't, however, keep the fact-based intrigue from lapsing into boilerplate crime drama, as it frequently does amid the persuasively unsettling jolts, defusing rather than igniting the story's core conflict."
... Furman, his cast and his behind-the-camera collaborators — beginning with screenwriter Ellen Brown Furman, half of a rare mother-and-son creative partnership — bring mid-'80s materialist excess and moral ambivalence into lurid focus. That the film finally proves less than the sum of its parts is unlikely to dissuade Cranston's fans, or audiences seeking a dark alternative to summer comedies and kids' fare, from catching it on the big screen." [Full review]
Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News
"The Infiltrator, based a true story about bringing down the money men of a major drug cartel in 1986, does kick up the feeling that we've been down this clichéd road before."
But the movie rises thanks to an ace in the hole: Bryan Cranston, whose stirring star turn hooks us completely. ... But pacing is an issue, especially in the plodding exposition-heavy first half. As are nagging scenes that don't add up. Would Mazur really take his wife out for dinner when he's working undercover? Would he pull his loud-mouthed aunt (Olympia Dukakis) into a job? Maybe the truth is stranger than fiction, maybe the filmmakers fudged." [Full review]