Bryan Cranston knocks, Tampa answers with U.S. premiere of The Infiltrator

July 7, 2016

Steve Persall | Tampa Bay Times

Hard to say what excited VIPs more at Wednesday’s U.S. premiere of The Infiltrator, the movie or a perk before it.

Emmy and Tony winner Bryan Cranston, co-star Benjamin Bratt and director Brad Furman greeted and posed for photos, a receiving line hundreds couldn’t pass up.

“That’s a little unusual,” Cranston said backstage, with a thin smile.

“But everybody here is excited, and that’s fun. And they were so cooperative in letting us get this done here, we don’t mind.

“They’re excited, we’re excited telling this story that was born here, in Tampa. It’s valuable to bring it to them.”

Bratt also seemed amused.

“It struck me as something not too unlike a wedding,” he said later.

“But maybe that’s what this is about. What you have is a celebratory energy in the air.”

And why not? The Infiltrator is a Tampa Bay story, filmed here in 2015 for three weeks, which seems incredible considering how much of us is in there. From Innisbrook to Ybor City, Furman’s movie is firmly stamped Tampa Bay.

Local references were often greeted with whoops of recognition, from an opening title card declaring “Tampa, 1985,” to a closing image of a Gulfport playground. A character declaring herself “a Bucs fan” earned applause. People who wouldn’t be caught dead inside the 2001 Odyssey strip club might’ve cheered its cameo.

When Tampa Theatre’s auditorium appeared on screen, the meta of the moment was a thrill.

The Infiltrator is based on the memoirs of Robert Mazur, a Tampa resident and former federal undercover agent. Mazur’s 5-year infiltration of Pablo Escobar’s Medillin cartel, densely detailed in his book, is streamlined to feature length with a few licenses taken.

“This is one of our own: the real life story of Bob Mazur,” Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn said before the show. “You’ve got to be proud of the work that he’s done, and you’ve got to be proud of the opportunity to tell Tampa’s story (in a movie) once again.”

Cranston’s portrayal of Mazur is the intensity equal and moral opposite of his signature Breaking Bad role. Furman’s direction is energetic yet conventionally so; not enough scenes convey the throat-clutching tension Mazur’s profession contains. Bratt and especially John Leguizamo are sharp in supporting roles.

The screening was capped by by nine of Mazur’s investigation colleagues taking bows on stage. Mazur’s presence in the audience was noted but he wasn’t identified, an enduring personal security decision.

The Infiltrator opens nationwide in theaters on July 13. Read an interview with Mazur at and Sunday’s Latitudes section.