Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Bryan Cranston

“The Infiltrator” Delivers with Heart-Pounding Suspense

“The Infiltrator” is Bryan Cranston’s new film. It is based on the 2009 Bob Mazur book about his experiences as an undercover agent for the FBI. Mazur was the federal agent infiltrated one of the largest drug syndicates in the United States, and suggested “Operation C-Chase,” which would follow the money instead of the men. [As I just spent July 5th within FBI headquarters in New York City hearing, firsthand, about undercover work from the experts, as a part of the ITW (International Thriller Writers) Conference, the film was particularly timely and relevant for me].

Directed by Brad Furman (“The Lincoln Lawyer,” “Runner, Runner”), the quest for the rights to make the film took two and one-half years to obtain, as many other high profile stars were in a bidding war in Hollywood to secure the rights, including Leonardo DeCaprio and Tom Cruise.

As Bad Furman told Frank Gonzales in an interview entitled “Inside the Infiltrator,” “Fortunately for us, one of my best friends from college, Don Sikorski, who is a producer on the film, brought the book to my attention. We both loved it and tried to go through official channels to obtain the rights with no luck. So, with nothing to lose and in true investigative journalistic fashion, we tracked down Bob Mazur’s phone number and I cold called him.”


The upshot is one of summer’s best films, with stand-out performances from star Bryan Cranston and extremely good support from John Leguizano, whom Director Furman described as “one of my dearest and closest friends.” He went on to tell Gonzales, “I’ve known Benjamin Bratt (Alcaino) and Yul Vasquez (Ospina) for 20 years and Diane Kruger (Kathy Ertz) and I had met on a movie a few years prior, so I’ve had deep personal relationships with the core base of actors in this movie, and I think it paid wonderful dividends for me, for them, and for The Infiltrator.”


Another close tie that really enhanced enjoyment of the film was the great script by Furman’s own mother, a well-known Hollywood scriptwriter, as Furman added, “My mother really wanted to show the balance Mazur struggled with in trying to have a family and in trying to do his job. Bob was going back and forth from Tampa to Miami and he was away from his wife and children. Mom really brought out how hard that was for Mazur. She was also able to show how even drug lord’s lives were influenced by their families. She should get a lot of credit for her brilliant work in crafting a screenplay that got it right.”

Leguizamo has some of the film’s best lines and his performance is as stellar as Cranston’s. It is made clear from the beginning of the film that Mazur (Cranston) is leery of working with the Hispanic fellow officer, who seems to like to live life on the edge. He asks that he not be assigned to work with him, but is told, “He’s your way in.” Leguizamo’s character wants to pay a snitch he knows $250,000 to assist them, but Cranston is skeptical that the man is trustworthy, saying, “These people who sell information…they walk on the dirty side of the street, and then they cross over to the clean side, but their shoes always stay muddy.”

Pretending to be Bob Musella (Cranston) and Emilio Dominguez (Leguizamo), the duo scores a better office to work from. (Leguizamo says, “ This is so much better than our old place. It was so filthy even the rats ran from it.”). Cranston’s sidekick is incredulous that he has just turned down a nice, safe retirement offer, saying, “You and the kids and the wife could be playin’ cricket on a yacht or whatever-the-hell it is white people do when they retire.”

But that’s just the point: Bob Mazur doesn’t want to retire and, in fact, he did not after the bust—despite going deep undercover to infiltrate Pablo Escobar’s drug-trafficking plaguing the nation in 1986, by posing as a money-laundering businessman named Bob Musella. The impulsive and streetwise Hispanic agent Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) and a rookie female agent who poses as his fiancée, Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) the two pull off befriending Escobar’s top lieutenant Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt) to the point that Alcaino says of the bogus engaged couple, “We love them like family.”


In one memorable exchange, Alcaino comments on a hit on a different infiltrator, Barry Seal (played by a virtually unrecognizable Michael Pare, once Eddie in “Eddie and the Cruisers”), saying that he had 2 rings made of coca leaves and gave one to Barry Seal and had him to dinner at his home. Alcaina says, with disgust, “I wasted my knives on the meat.” Adds Alcaino (to Mazur): “The politicians think it’s a drug war, but it’s a business like any other. Trust is necessary. Without it, there is no loyalty, and without loyalty it never ends well.”

Completely trusted by Alcaino, Mazur learns about “the anonymous window” of the Federal Reserve Bank, which has been allowing the CIA to fund a secret account that helped fund Noriega’s Contra organization. ($10 million of Escobar’s money was frozen by the bank). All this led to the Reagan years Contra scandal, which inspired another Leguizamo scripted line: “Ronnie should have stayed the Gipper. He is nothing but a God damned two-bit drug pusher.”


The movie is exceptionally well paced, although some of the exciting near misses are inscrutable and difficult to decipher as a first-time viewer. Why is that man apparently following Mazur in a car as Mazur completes his morning jog? Who was that guy silently observing Mazur talking to Emir (Leguizamo) from across the street? The time/city locations are also a bit difficult to follow (Is this Miami or Tampa?) and I am still wondering how a group with as much money as Pablo Escobar’s drug outfit couldn’t have run a more in-depth background check on imposter Bob Musella, and/or why the criminals wouldn’t have, at the very least, bugged the room that the supposed engaged couple shared, to see what they were discussing. But that’s probably just me; a second viewing cleared up my confusion.

The good news for the U.S. is that 85 drug lords and the corrupt bankers of BCC (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) which laundered their dirty money were taken down by two brave agents who risked their lives and played their parts as well as any Hollywood actors.

Aaron Paul: “Breaking Bad’s” Jesse Pinkman’s Career Is Breaking Good

Aaron-PaulAaron Paul, whose name at birth was Aaron Paul Sturtevant, is the 31-year-old Emmy-nominated co-star of Breaking Bad. The Emmett, Idaho native, who graduated from Centennial High School in Boise, Idaho, set off for Los Angeles, California with $3,000 in his pocket and—after 8 months—landed his first paying gig: a Kellogg’s Corn Pops cereal commercial.

Since then, Aaron Paul’s career has taken a less wholesome trajectory, as far as the role he is best known for,  that of the tweaker and heroin addict Jesse Pinkman on “Breaking Bad.”

Paul has said that he owes series writer Vince Gilligan his career, as Gilligan remembered him from a role on “The X-Files” where he played a character known as Sky Commander Winky, which had been Gilligan’s college nickname.  When Paul auditioned for “Breaking Bad” and blew his lines, Gilligan remembered him from “The X-Files.” He cast him for one season’s work on “Breaking Bad” as Jesse Pinkman. Jesse (Aaron) was to have been killed off at the end of season one.

Says Gilligan of the decision to retain Paul beyond season one, “I didn’t realize the depth, humor and pathos Aaron could bring.  He was so excellent.  I told Aaron I wasn’t going to kill Jesse, but I couldn’t promise I wasn’t going to torture him.”  Jesse’s tortures, so far, have increased viewership by +17%, to about 1.3 million viewers per episode, and his stint as the clean-cut Scott on “Big Love” didn’t hurt, either.
Long before Aaron was Jesse or Scott he was appearing in independent films and a variety of TV series, such as “The Guardian,” “CSI,” “CSI: Miami,” “E.R.”, “Bones”, and a music video for the band “Korn” that accompanied the song “Thoughtless,” a video which was directed by the Hughes brothers.

Appearing on Carson Daily’s late night show on Monday night, May 16th, Paul told the host, “The Hughes Brothers directed it (the Korn video) and I just jumped onboard with it and it was fun.”  He added, “It’s just a dream to work in this business.”

The two were meeting at Citizen Smith’s Bar and Restaurant.  To questions from Daly about whether he minds being associated with his work in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Paul replied, “I always get people accosting me for Van Wilder.” Said Carson, “That must drive you nuts.” Paul responded good-humoredly, “No, it’s fine.”

The gifted Paul seems genuinely grateful to be on “Breaking Bad,” saying, “When I first read the script, I thought to myself, I mean, it’s brilliant, but there’s no way this is going to make it on the air.  There’s no way they’re going to pick this up.  I applaud AMC for having the balls to do it.  I found myself laughing at scenes where Jesse is trying to melt a body with acid, but it’s pretty dark stuff.”

Asked Carson, “What did you know about tweakers and meth/amphetamine addicts before the show?” Paul replied, “It never really got a hold of me, but I definitely saw how it affected people. It is a dark side world.”

Paul’s co-star, Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter White, the meth chemist and was previously best known for playing the father in “Malcolm in the Middle,” said, “Aaron’s capacity to convey someone who is daring and vulnerable, to bring likeability to an unsympathetic character is astonishing.”

Carson Daly asked Paul about shooting in Albuquerque, mentioning that he(Daly) had motorcycled through there while traveling Route 66 and that he “did not have a great time.” Said Paul, “It’s nice to get out of L.A., but there’s really not much to do.  They just like that it’s being shot in their city. Some people like it. Some people hate it.”

Paul continued, “I owe Vince (Gilligan) for my career,” and reminisced about his job as an usher when he first hit L.A., saying, “It was the first and only time I saw Steven Spielberg in person.”  The overnight success that Aaron Paul is now enjoying (a film, Wreckage, is due out in 2010) was really 13 years in the making.

Gilligan told “T.V. Guide,” “Aaron’s a star in the making.  He has great charisma, wonderful range.  He’s the whole package.  But he’s also one of the sweetest guys around.”

Paul—who has been linked to actress Jessica Lowndes—said, “I love the story (of “Breaking Bad”), the nice layers—the role is just incredible.” Check it out on AMC; it’s one of the best series now on television.

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