Posted on July 12, 2016 at 5:25 pmB
|Lowest Recommended Age:
|Mature High Schooler
|Rated R for strong violence, language throughout, some sexual content and drug material
|Very strong language, homophobic slurs
|Drugs and drug dealing, alcohol, smoking
|Extensive and graphic violence, guns, car crash, mob executions, disturbing images
|Date Released to Theaters:
|July 12, 2016
“We’ve been following the drugs to get to the bad guys. What if we follow the money?” That simple suggestion from FBI undercover agent Bob Mazur (Bryan Cranston) led to an unprecedented massive series of arrests that brought down key members of Pablo Escobar’s cocaine operations — and the world’s 11th biggest bank. Based on Bob Mazur’s book, and with Mazur as a producer, it is set in 1980’s Florida, where Excobar was smuggling in literally tons of cocaine. Getting it into the country was easy. Selling it was easy. Paying off, threatening, and torturing anyone who tried to stop them was easy. The biggest challenge they faced was moving the money between countries.
Mazur, trained as an accountant, went undercover and offered money laundering services to Escobar’s lieutenants, funnelling their stacks of cash through “legitimate” companies and criminal-friendly jurisdictions like Panama, then led by Manuel Noriega. He was able to gain the trust of the drug dealers. It was even easier to get the cooperation of bankers, including the prestigious international financial institution BCCI.
This movie, directed by “The Lincoln Lawyer’s” Brad Furman is sincere, diligent, a little corny, and for better and worse exactly what you expect from a fact-based story of an FBI undercover operative. There is the anxious and at times impatient wife. “Promise me this is the last one.” “I’m just wondering where my little Bobby the accountant went?” She has the thankless task of sighing, getting upset when their anniversary celebration is ruined when he has to go into character because they run into one of his criminal buddies, being jealous of his relationship with a beautiful female agent posing as his fiancee (Diane Kruger) and telling him he should have taken the chance for early retirement.
For a tense crime drama, it is surprisingly inert. We learn very little about what is involved in laundering money to prove himself to the bad guys or how the investigation proceeded or what goes into a long-term undercover operation. Mazur shows up in a Rolls Royce and has access to a mansion. Both were confiscated from drug dealers, but we do not learn that from the movie. What we do see is Mazur going home at night to his modest suburban house and his wife and children and jogging through his neighborhood. Presumably Escobar, one of the most ruthless criminals in history, would not turn over hundreds of millions of dollars to someone without making sure he was who he said he was. Mazur comes across as near-saintly, so even Cranston cannot give the character much by way of depth. The conflicts he feels about betraying a man who trusts him are confusing. Even when he is played by the elegant Benjamin Bratt, he is still a barbaric thug. The “Red Wedding”-style climax is synthetic, which, come to think of it, is the problem throughout. This is a movie about a faker that never feels real.
Parents should know that this film has very intense peril and violence, very disturbing and graphic images, guns, car crash, mob executions, characters injured and killed, very strong and crude language throughout with some homophobic slurs, some nudity, sexual references, drinking, smoking, and drugs and drug dealing.
Family discussion: Do you agree with the sentences received by the people who went to jail in this film? What makes someone good at undercover work?
If you like this, try: “Donnie Brasco,” “American Hustle,” and “Kill the Messenger”