The Informers

The Informers movie poster
MPAA rating: R
Genre: Drama
In 1980's Los Angeles, a bevy of characters are linked through their hard-partying lifestyles; based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel.
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke, Winona Ryder, Brad Renfro
Director: Gregor Jordan
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Editorial Review

A nihilistic, narcissistic, knuckleheaded move about nihilistic, narcissistic knuckleheads, "The Informers" might have been an interesting exercise in satire, if it only had a sense of humor. Which it doesn't. You'll need one, though, after forking over 10 bucks to see it.

The product of writer Bret Easton Ellis's apparently bottomless well of very profitable faux-indignation over coke-addled '80s hedonism, it is also a movie for which timing is everything, including a death sentence: The problems of people who have everything are hardly what anyone wants to see right now. And yet, here we have an assortment of familiar faces, some of which had their best days in the '80s. They include Kim Basinger as the bored, adulterous wife of William Sloan (Billy Bob Thornton), who is, almost inconceivably, both a film producer and the most likable guy in the film. He is simultaneously reconciling with Laura (Basinger) while trying to patch things up with his twitchy mistress (the over-caffeinated Winona Ryder).

It's not those people with a visible means of support whom the film is about, but rather the very decadent young things who gallop through "The Informers." It takes about 30 seconds for the viewer to despise every one of them, and when a young man is hit by a car about 35 seconds in, it's as hopeful a moment as the Ellis-Nicholas Jarecki screenplay provides. That hope is also immediately crushed: The funeral of this departed friend, as in that '80s hit "The Big Chill," provides the opportunity for introspection, character development and big emotions.

"The Informers" is crying out for a laugh, but no one comes to the rescue, certainly not director Gregor Jordan ("Two Hands," "Ned Kelly") and not his cast: Amber Heard, as Christie the not-so-nimble-minded naked nymphomaniac; Jon Foster, as the insufferably smug Graham Sloan; Austin Nichols as the male hustler Martin; and, of course, Mickey Rourke, whose character Peter kidnaps a random 11-year-old boy off the street and holds him for ransom. But don't hate him for it. As Peter's nephew Jack (Brad Renfro) puts it, "It's hard to make it in this town unless you're willing to do some awful things. I'm willing." Yes, you are.

-- John Anderson (April 24, 2009)

Contains sex, nudity, vulgarity, drug use and general idiocy.