'The Infiltrator' Starring Bryan Cranston Tackles The War on Drugs, Pablo Escobar

By Seth Ferranti 07/13/16

The film is based on the real-life story of a federal agent who went undercover as a money launderer to infiltrate Pablo Escobar's organization.

'The Infiltrator' Starring Bryan Cranston Tackles The War on Drugs, Pablo Escobar
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Bryan Cranston stars in The Infiltrator, a new blockbuster film that looks at the 1980s cocaine trade though the money laundering angle. As Walter White in Breaking Bad, the actor played a drug kingpin, but in this new movie he plays a character on the other side of the drug trade, a U.S. Customs official who went undercover to infiltrate Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel’s thriving criminal enterprise. Based on the book of the same name by the real-life customs agent, Robert Mazur, The Infiltrator follows the agent as he gathers intel on the cartel’s bankers and businessmen that turn their illicitly generated funds into legal tender.

The War on Drugs was in full swing, but law enforcement was experiencing problems targeting the top echelon of Colombia’s drug barons that were flooding the U.S. with cocaine. Wanting to get in on the action, Mazur devised a follow-the-money strategy that resulted in a series of busts that brought down the team of bankers who set up the complex finance systems the drug lords used to operate their international cocaine smuggling operations. From private jets to Rolls-Royces and Armani suits, Mazur played the role of unscrupulous banker perfectly and now Cranston revises his role on the big screen.

“When you look at these War on Drug-type stories on film, you don’t see many from the banking or money perspective,” Donald Sikorski, who helped produce the film, tells The Fix. “This story took place at the height of Pablo Escobar’s drug reign. The film goes into the role that banks play in laundering money. That story is so fascinating to me, and I think you can look at banks today and say that the same thing is going on.”

Without a place to launder their dirty cash, drug kingpins can never achieve the façade of legitimacy that so many of them desire. The bankers and businessmen who work for them and operate these laundering schemes have a huge impact on the drug game, and in effect enable these drug organizations to operate just like regular businesses. They are as guilty as the smugglers, dealers and middlemen who keep these cartels in business.

“The impact I hope this movie has, when it comes to the War on Drugs, is that we might take a look at the banking industries and how they never get prosecuted,” Sikorski tells The Fix. “You see them fined a couple of hundred thousand dollars all the time, but they are hardly ever prosecuted. In the case that The Infiltrator is based on, numerous bankers were convicted and we don’t see this that often. More often than not, nobody is held personally accountable on the banking end.”

The Infiltrator opened this week and is now in U.S. theaters. 

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.