The Infiltrator (2016)

Stars: Bryan CranstonJohn LeguizamoDiane KrugerBenjamin Bratt.

Director: Brad Furman

When I heard the premise for this “based on true events” crime thriller, the first thing that went through my mind was Donnie Brasco, Donnie Brasco, repeatedly.  Amongst a few other movies of similar tales The Infiltrator was inevitably going to be compared to Donnie Brasco which gave it an awful lot to live up to.  Sadly it didn’t but that doesn’t make it a bad film. Just not as good.

Set in 1986, Bryan Cranston plays federal agent Robert Mazur who works on what he tells his wife will be his last undercover operation and what an operation he hopes it will be.  He plans to get inside the trafficking network of one Pablo Escobar, yes that one.  Alongside his partner, albeit reluctantly at first, Emir Abreu (Leguizamo) Mazur sets himself up as a master money launderer and sets about gaining the trust of Escobar’s most trusted lieutenant, Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt).

Once Mazur is in bed with Alcaino, so to speak, the lines between loyalty and duty become particularly blurred.  This is brought furthermore into focus by the introduction of Diane Kruger as Kathy Ertz.  After Mazur has to invent a fiance when trying to maintain fidelity to his actual wife, Ertz is assigned to go undercover as his invented fiance.  The couple become close with Alcaino and his family and the burden of the inevitable betrayal weighs heavily on both Mazur and Ertz.

The film is good, but not fantastic.  I feel it needed to be structured more like a three-hour epic for the set up to the betrayal to be perfectly laid.  You know what’s coming so that isn’t a spoiler as such.  The film is always going in that direction is fact is to be maintained.  There just isn’t enough ground work done in the 120 minutes to lend real emotion to the climax.  It’s all, very much, by the numbers.

This is not to say the cast don’t play well, they do.  Cranston himself, though, struggles to shake the Walter White persona but then the roles carry a lot of similarities but then there’s a danger he’s being typecast.  John Leguizamo, in particular, stood out for me.  I’ve always felt he’s been underrated and under used since his early appearance as Benny Blanco from the Bronx in Carlito’s Way back in 1993.  Here we see him being just as enigmatic again but with a nice back drop of loyalty and determination.  Benjamin Bratt is very smooth as Roberto Alcaino.  Clearly an ambitious and driven man in what he does but still takes that time for his family in the most domestic of situations.  Finally, Diane Kruger lends a nice touch without leaving any lasting impressions, she is after all just invented window dressing for Mazur.  It’s worth mentioning a couple of British stars who also appear.  Joseph Gilgun, on time out from Preacher, is on good lively form as Mazur’s favourite informant and now underworld guide and Jason Isaacs and Art Malik also have smaller roles but show their true professionalism and give more than adequate performances.

The verdict: 3.5/5 Stars

The film is a solid crime drama with worthy performances but is let down by a screenplay that doesn’t give the film room to breathe.

The Infiltrator on IMDb

Official Website


Morgan (2016)

Stars: Kate MaraAnya Taylor-JoyRose LeslieTony JonesPaul GiamattiMichelle YeohJennifer Jason LeighBrian Cox.

Director: Luke Scott

I knew little about Morgan when I first saw it was showing at my local multi-plex.  When I read a brief synopsis I knew I wanted in.  Morgan is a five year old girl, well in terms of her age that much is true.  She is an artificial life form created by human hand.  Morgan has been displaying some disturbing behaviour when confronted with emotional turmoil.  Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is sent in as a risk assessment officer to investigate.  Those few sentences are enough to get me on board and there is more to follow.  A.I. and Kate Mara? What’s not to like?

Morgan is being kept at a remote run down old mansion amongst a group of scientists and therapists.  Morgan’s most recent offence had happened upon Kathy Grief (an unfortunate name) when she had delivered some disappointing news to Morgan.  Upon hearing the news Morgan savagely attacks Kathy stabbing her in the eye several times.  Despite these violent outbursts from Morgan the team are adamant the project is a success and yielding results far beyond what they could have hoped for.  Unfortunately for them, Lee has other ideas and sets about her assignment with vigour and purpose.

Just prior to the opening of the movie a thought went through my head as to where this film might go.  I wasn’t wrong but this didn’t stop me from enjoying the movie a great deal.

There’s some very nice panoramic photography in the early parts of the film which set the film nicely into its claustrophobic environment.  It’s surprisingly brutal though unlike Alex Garland’s Ex Machina the film does rely on some action sequences and violence to help the story along.

The cast are very good and what a cast it is; I’m very surprised this film hasn’t had a lot more exposure or perhaps I’ve just missed it.  Kate Mara is cool and calculating from start to finish and despite her cold outlook there’s a lot to like in her performance.  Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie also plays a more than adequate part as Amy, Morgan’s psychologist and friend.  A friend who has clearly become too attached to Morgan to offer an objective approach to the decisions that have to be made about Morgan.  She’s a lively character with her own self diagnosed boundary issues.  Rose Leslie should go places based not based just on this role or GoT either.  Another Brit on board is Toby Jones as a scientist who, like Amy, has become very attached to Morgan.  Jones’ stock as a respected actor grows daily and his role here just adds to his stock.  Things don’t pan out well for his character here and his dejection and frustration flow through very well.  I’m pretty sure I pointed out my reservations about Michelle Yeoh in my Mechanic Resurrection review.  In her second opportunity of the week to change my opinion she fails again.  She just seems totally detached from the role.  Finally Paul Giamatti plays the role of Dr Alan Shapiro who, like Weathers, is brought in to assess Morgan and in particular her state of A.I. mind.  Like Toby Jones’s character things don’t quite go to plan for Shapiro but it’s a welcome appearance and they couldn’t have chosen a better actor for the role.  He’s almost an interrogator and he gets right under the skin the moment he arrives. Brian Cox and Jennifer Jason Leigh (as Grief) also appear but their screen time is too limited to fairly appraise.

But above all of these performances Morgan predictably stands out.  Played by Anya Taylor-Joy, Morgan doesn’t exactly steal the show as it’s her show in the first place but she just takes command of the film. When she’s in more reflective mode she’s isolated and apparently overwhelmed by her existence and yet when the emotions she has developed overwhelm her she becomes a destructive force that you wouldn’t want to cross.

The film works very well.  It keeps you on board as it keeps a steady pace and never digresses into unnecessary sub plots too much.

The verdict? 4/5 Stars – A healthy mix of science fiction, emotion and action make Morgan a winner for me.

Morgan on IMDb

Offical Website

Mechanic Resurrection (2016)

Stars: Jason StathamJessica AlbaTommy Lee JonesMichelle YeohSam Hazeldine

Director: Dennis Gansel

Jason Statham returns to screens in this follow up to 2011 update of the 1972 Charles Bronson movie The Mechanic.  We catch up with Arthur Bishop (Statham) as he is living a quiet life having staged his own death at the close of the first film.

Things don’t stay quiet for long as he is located by Crain, a former childhood friend of Bishop’s.  Crain didn’t escape two youngster’s nightmare existence the way Bishop did, claiming he left him behind; Crain has a score to settle.

When Crain’s first attempts to “recruit” Bishop fail he attempts to bait Bishop into carrying out the three eliminations he needs to remove his competition in the arms trade.  He sends in the femme fatale of our story Gina, played by Jessica Alba.  The trick being to become Bishop’s love interest and then kidnap her to force Bishop to do the three jobs.  Despite being on to this plan at the outset it still works!  Gina is taken leaving our favourite Mechanic to carry out the jobs.

From here on in, it’s as you would expect from a Jason Statham action romp.  We globetrot around a little as he takes out the three targets in quite elaborate sequences and some in more spectacular fashion than other.  It’s the spectacular where the film suffers really.  In particular the high rise swimming pool scene, it’s almost like those old films where the car chases were all filmed with stationary cars and moving backgrounds.  This looks a little cheap but not so much so as to totally distract the viewer.   There are some well choreographed combat scenes that you would expect from the movie and some pretty indiscriminate fire fights.   When I deliver my verdict I will offer a slightly different title for this film. With the globetrotting and elaborate tasks Bishop carries out and the manner in which he carries them out then the film’s title to take on a little more imagination.

What can we say about Statham?  Well, nothing new really.  We know what he can do in these movies and he does it here and well enough.   Jessica Alba, on the other hand, is surely worthy of a more substantial role in other movies.  Here she is nothing more than eye candy and I think that comes through on screen.  The film doesn’t ask a lot of her.  Michelle Yeoh also appears as friend and confidante to Bishop.  I’ve never really taken to her; she seems so insincere and does little here to change my perception of her.  Tommy Lee Jones also appears but this was easy money for him, he does what he does ok but screen time is kept to a minimum and this isn’t a role he will have to have immersed himself in too much.  Our villain, Crain, played Sam Hazeldine is menacing enough however he isn’t much of a tough guy the way Bishop is and any face offs they have are brief and not massively spectacular.

The Verdict?

3/5 Stars Mechanic Impossible; a more appropriate title for Bishop’s return.  90 minutes of Tuesday violence that won’t stretch you.

Mechanic Resurrection on IMDb

Mechanic Resurrection Official Website