True crime dramas have always peaked my interest, because well, mostly because of the ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ aspect. No matter how good a writer is, you just can’t beat real life when it comes to stories. While Scorsese has set the bar pretty high with “Goodfellas” and “Casino” there are plenty of stories still to tell, and it just takes the right filmmaker to tell them. Director Brad Furman seems to be very capable of making something good, after “The Lincoln Lawyer” it certainly seemed interesting to see what he could do with this compelling story.
Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) works for the U.S. Customs office as an undercover agent. It is the mid eighties and Mazur has been on the front lines of the war on drugs. Mazur comes up with a plan to not follow the drugs, but to instead follow the money and takes on the identity of someone who can do that. Soon Mazur and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), also a member of Customs are knee deep in a world where you don’t play with fire. While Mazur plays around in the world of the Cartel, at night he comes home to his family as just Robert Mazur, a line that sometimes gets blurred due to the nature of his job. As Mazur climbs further up the food chain, he has to find the right exit point whereas not to blow his cover and to get the right amount of info to make the bust of a lifetime.
The first thing to know right off is that with a lesser actor than Cranston in the lead role and you would have a very average movie. Furman and writer Ellen Sue Brown craft a good story, but it does have its faults. One of those being in the pace as the movie seems to never fully get its legs under it while only showing flashes of a really good movie. While the performances by Cranston and Leguizamo both stand out, they are not enough to keep the movie’s head above water the whole time. The pacing isn’t the only fault though, the film seems like it suffers from a split personality as it goes to Furman having had watched those Scorsese films and did his best to imitate them but feels like “New” Coke and we all know how that turned out. Even with these issues Cranston makes it a fairly decent movie. Furman might have been aiming for “Casino” but this film feels a lot like “Black Mass”, a good story that gets lost in the telling and a strong performance by an already good actor. This movie could have gone a lot of different ways, and while it doesn’t achieve greatness it ends up entertaining for anyone who misses Walter White.