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The Informers Review

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by Casimir Harlow Sep 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

    The Informers Review
    Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho took the world by storm. And those who somehow managed to avoid the hype, furore, criticism and acclaim it garnered probably found it hard not to notice all of the publicity and advertising surrounding the Big Screen adaptation starring Christian Bale. A biting satire, offering poignant social commentary on hedonistic excesses, it certainly did not hold back in terms of horror either (something which was even more prevalent in the original novel).


    The only subsequent Ellis adaptation that I have come across is The Rules of Attraction (there was an early 80s film adaption of one of his other books which has thankfully been forgotten), which totally went under the radar. Quite engaging, it may not have had either the star attraction or the visceral punch of American Psycho, but it deserved more recognition than it garnered. Still, 'Psycho - both in novel and film form - had given Ellis enough fame to certainly warrant further adaptations, and so The Informers was put into production, a movie based on his collection of short stories by the same name.


    After several years of work to get the movie made, Ellis' script was eventually taken up by Buffalo Soldiers' Director Greg Jordan, who cut it by more than a third and played the whole thing straight - somehow stripping the tale of any of its bitingly satirical qualities, and any resultant dark humour therein. Shot in 2007, the story was further butchered just prior to filming, a whole subplot (involving vampires) removed and the end result left lacking much sense of life, or of interest. Boasting an all-star ensemble cast, and the kind of multi-arced storytelling born out of the Pulp Fiction / Crash style of storytelling, the movie was still panned by critics and audiences alike upon release. So is there anything redeemable from this disaster of a production?


    Telling the tale of a week in the lives of a disparate group of individuals, The Informers can be split into roughly four vaguely interlinked stories. At the heart we have Graham and his friends, an insipid bunch of 80s rich kids who barely take a moment to acknowledge the significance of the recent death of one of their entourage. Graham is in love with Christie, but they are too busy engaging in their chosen hedonistic lifestyle of drugs and group sex (with their friend Martin) for him to really get a handle on that, or for him to figure out what - if any - purpose he has in life. Martin is secretly sleeping with Graham's mum, Laura, a disillusioned housewife who is inexplicably still holding out on another chance with her ex-husband William. William - a studio exec - is half-heartedly attempting to give his marriage another shot, in spite of the fact that he is still carrying a torch for his muse, an ageing TV reporter. Meanwhile Tim, another member of Graham's apathetic group, is busy holidaying with his embarrassing dad, who is undergoing a mid-life crisis of his own. Very loosely brushing up against these interconnected tales we have the arcs of Bryan Metro, rock star and paedophile, and a separate tale of Jack, whose uncle unwittingly involves him in the kidnap of a young child for improper purposes.


    Tenuously and anorexically linked, these interspliced tales basically amount to ninety minutes' of wasted time, gazing into a navels of a bunch of amoral losers who waste away their lives with woeful abandon. Perhaps there is a nod to the dangerous excesses of the 80s, a hint of the sobering effect that the AIDs furore had on such a lifestyle, some sign of humanity surrounding the despicable child trafficking depicted, but on the whole there is nothing significant about this movie, nothing enjoyable, no keen satirical observation, no likeable characters - or even characters that can be vaguely related to - and simply no point to it all.


    The casting is surprising. I can only imagine that this project seemed worthy on paper and that the footage shot was far in excess of that realised in the final film, otherwise I cannot imagine how they got all these individuals on board. Billy Bob Thornton, Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger - All playing cardboard cut-outs, mere shells wandering around aimlessly in snippeted story arcs that give them no room to explain - let alone expand - upon their parts. Thornton's exec zombies his way around studio-land, feebly trying to patch things up with his wife, Basinger (who really does play the role as if she is on Prozac) whilst clumsily trying to keep his options open with Ryder's TV exec, greying and somehow winding down - although the actress does little more than hold her mouth open, aghast, for the majority of her insignificant screen-time. Rourke, the comeback-king, must have had more meat to get into than this, and his performance is the meaningless peak on a mountain in the clouds - barely betraying what lies beneath. His role here, paired up with the late Brad Renfro, is so trimmed that you simply cannot hope to fully grasp what is going on - other than the very simplistic obvious - and I have to assume that there was more originally than this.


    Then we have the hedonistic band of perfectly (if often hilariously) coiffeured, young and pretty boys and girls who alternate sex and drugs to a somewhat unexpected but totally ineffective climax. You hate them all, get bored by their actions, and mostly hope that something bad happens to them all as they vacantly parade around the screen, often wearing nothing. Even then, and in the company of the gorgeous Amber Heard, there is no titillation, the movie stripped of anything even vaguely sexy. The only characters brought to life by decent performances are those of the insipid youths - and when you dislike them all, the effort therein seems utterly wasted.


    The Informers plays like a collection of b-roll footage from American Psycho - all of the subplots and extraneous characters that might have been removed from the main story to keep it trim. As such, it is utterly pointless, avoiding all social commentary, poignancy or significance, bereft of the dark humour and - frankly - of anything in the least bit entertaining. Totally devoid of any character you can associate with or relate to, anybody even aspiring to break free from the hell that these individuals bathe in, and lacking any vision in direction, Ellis' already disjointed work has here been boiled down to its simplest, most banal ingredients. Uninspired and bland, The Informers should be avoided at all costs.