Director: Gregor Jordan (Buffalo Soldiers, Ned Kelly)
Screenplay: Bret Easton Ellis, Nicholas Jarecki
Producer: Marco Weber
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke, Jon Foster, Amber Heard, Rhys Ifans, Chris Isaak, Austin Nichols, Lou Taylor Pucci, Mel Raido, Brad Renfro
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 98 min.
On the surface, The Informers appears to have everything going for it: great source material, a fantastic cast, a good director so what went wrong? The film, which premiered at Sundance earlier in the year, has been universally panned and for good reason too, it’s a mess of a film with no direction and nothing to say.
Based on a collection of short stories from a man infatuated with the 1980s, Ellis’ original work from which the script was based is itself a mess; a collection which was put out as a gap filler for his (at the time) continuously delayed “Glamorama.” Frankly, Ellis’ work started getting old sometime after “American Psycho” and though I can appreciate his stories, he has mined his own themes to the point of obscenity.
It’s difficult enough to adapt a film from one book but The Informers suggests that it may be impossible to create any semblance of a film from a collection of loosely tied short stories. Robert Altman may be able to pull it off but as much as I like director Gregor Jordan’s work, he’s no Altman and as they say, the proof is in the pudding.
So what’s the film about? If you know anything about Ellis, your guess of “excess of the 80s and the me generation” is pretty accurate. The joy of watching adaptations of Ellis’ works is seeing how different filmmakers get at that theme but Jordan fails to do get at anything beyond the surface. The film is a mess of threads and ideas varying from complete disaster to mediocre. Add in the fact that the stories run their course interspersed between each other and it’s all that more confusing. There are simply too many characters and stories to keep track of and the film would have been better served by having each story told independently of the other. Heck, this would have made a great anthology film.
Besides the messy story, there’s the overwrought production design. The film goes out of its way to set the time and place rather than simply presenting and then living in it. Attention is drawn to locations, clothes, hair and make-up. Subtlety is thrown out the window and replaced by endless streams of period music and the production designer’s full access to the Ray Ban warehouse complete with Wayfarer’s for all. This constant harking on the accessories is unnecessary, though its meta value is quite high considering the period in question, and took away from the few, very few, things the film has going for it.
Perhaps most disheartening is the fact that The Informers features some excellent performances. Kim Basinger makes a splash with her turn as a drug addicted, depressed housewife whose husband is only interested in re-establishing the relationship to avoid paying for the divorce. Chris Isaak plays the part of the over zealous father trying to reconnect with his son to a tee but the real gem is Brad Renfro whose performance suggests the young actor was back on track and ready to reboot his career.
The Informers could almost be seen as the perfect example of Ellis’ themes at work (I say almost as it’s not entertaining enough to re-watch on this level). It’s a vacuous film and though Ellis’ work always seemed to have one character that saw beyond the surface, this film doesn’t even bother to try. When all is said and done, the performances are the best thing it has going and they’re simply not enough to recommend it.
Click “play” to see the trailer:
Flixster Profile for The Informers