Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: 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
Director: Gregor Jordan
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: August 25, 2009
“You can’t really make it in this town unless you’re really willing to do some awful things.”
What I knew about The Informers prior to watching it was that it was a tale of excess and forbidden taboos set against the backdrop of the 1980s. I also was aware that it was based on a book by American Psycho novelist Bret Easton Ellis. After watching the movie, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of two things is true; either this was Ellis’ worst novel or something got seriously lost in the translation from page to screen.
The film has the proper ingredients in place to make a memorable film at the level of American Psycho, which remains the best film adaptation of any of Ellis’ work. It’s got an impressive cast, a great soundtrack of 80’s classics and plenty of eye candy on display, particularly that of newcomer Amber Heard, who has officially made my top ten list of hot celebrity women. When it comes to showing skin, Ms. Heard is completely fearless, and I admire that completely.
But in spite of those qualities, the movie is heavily unfocused and never reaches anything resembling a point. It also has way too many characters and juggles their individual stories very unevenly, thus adding insult to injury. And as an added bonus, the characters themselves aren’t particularly likable in the slightest.
What passes for a storyline is basically a glimpse into the lives of several young L.A. socialites who get bored really easily and resort to sex and drugs to pass the time. There’s Graham (Jon Foster), who is passionately in love with his girlfriend, Christie (Amber Heard), who is also sleeping with Graham’s best friend, Martin (Austin Nichols). And as it turns out, Graham and Martin are also sleeping with each other.
We also get a look at a marriage falling apart, involving Graham’s parents. William (Billy Bob Thornton) is a movie mogul whose marriage to Laura (Kim Basinger) is a little more than on the rocks. The problem being that William is fixated on his former mistress, Cheryl (Winona Ryder), a TV news reporter.
Those storylines apparently go nowhere but are better to watch than this next plot thread, which could best be described with the words, “what the hell were you thinking”. A hotel clerk named Jack (Brad Renfro, in his final screen performance) is forced into a situation against his will when his deranged uncle, Peter (Mickey Rourke), pays him a visit. The situation involves Peter’s spontaneous decision to kidnap a random boy on the street for reasons that remain inexplicable to me.
And that’s basically it. Again, no real payoff to any of these stories, as I guess all we’re supposed to do is be sort of shocked and think to ourselves, “jeez, life in early 80s Los Angeles was really messed up for rich folks on 24/7 coke and sex binges”. Material like this could easily add up to something powerful and memorable, which represents the overall missed opportunity of the movie. The darkness associated with the drug-fueled 80s scene in L.A. was conveyed way much better in the concluding portion of Boogie Nights than in the entire running time of The Informers.
The film does carry an astounding look to it, and the image is delivered quite powerfully in this Blu-ray release from Sony. The early 80s L.A. setting is brought to vivid life in the 1080p, and detail seems to emerge in every single frame. The nighttime sequences, of which there are plenty, look particularly incredible. Without question, a marvelous looking presentation.
The Dolby TrueHD mix is more dynamic than you’d expect, considering the film is mainly a dialogue oriented piece. The sound of the period furiously matches its look, as 80s music is constantly looming in the background, including songs from the likes of A Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, Men Without Hats and Pat Benatar. As expected, the music sounds nothing short of fantastic. Dialogue delivery, as painfully melodramatic as it is, sounds terrifically clear as well.
There’s a commentary track with director Gregor Jordan and actors Jon Foster and Lou Taylor Pucci, as well as a brief but nicely detailed featurette titled “Human Intersection: The Making of The Informers”, and a Bonus Preview gallery including trailers for What Doesn’t Kill You and Damages.
The Informers is effective in its look and music (and the gorgeous Ms. Heard), but it’s an absolute dead zone of entertainment in all other areas. I’m sure this movie was trying to reach a point. Problem is, that point never got reached.