Film Review – The Informer (2019)

It’s that time of year. The summer season is drawing to a close, we’ve had all the big family movies, the super hero outings, some horror, some comedy so all we need now to round things off is a thriller. The trouble with The Informer is that it’s the sort of thriller that’s trotted out just about every year, with little in the way of variation.

We’re on familiar territory to start with. A drugs set up involving the current villains of choice, Eastern Europeans, but one of them acting as an informer for the FBI. But the big deal, the one when the gang is supposed to be nailed, goes disastrously wrong, the local cops get involved and one of them is killed. The informer is in a difficult position, so to save his skin and that of his wife and child, he agrees to go back to prison, again as an informer, and expose drugs dealings behind bars.

Well, you just know it’s never going to go smoothly, don’t you? It’s crammed with switchbacks and double crosses and they kick in early on. That’s partly because the film doesn’t know what it wants to be, so it throws in everything in the vain hope that something will stick. The initial drugs heist line is familiar, decently done and that’s about it. Then it adds another plot to the mix, one to work in parallel: this involves the dead cop’s partner, who thinks he has the culprit nailed and then realises he’s barking up the wrong tree – because the man he wants is the informer. That, it itself, is a decent idea and the film sets itself up for the two storylines to dovetail towards an explosive ending.

If only. All of a sudden the film switches again and becomes a prison drama, somewhere between The Shawshank Redemption and Brawl In Cell Block 99 but not on a par with either of them. The two storylines do eventually merge, but in a disappointingly functional way, so that we get a bloody climax in the prison instead. And a double cross. One of many. Far too many. You simply can’t trust anybody, be they a cop, FBI or criminal. Nobody means what they say. Well, except for one person and we won’t give away who that is.

This is a B movie dressed up to be something more. And it simply doesn’t deliver on its aspirations. Quite apart from the confusing and constant double crossings and a plot to match, the cast doesn’t give it the weight it needs. Rosamund Pike, usually such a reliable and strong performer, has pitifully little to get her teeth into. Her constantly anxious expression gives away how she feels about the part and it’s a surprising mis-step in terms of her choice of roles. There’s a curiously high number of Brits in the cast alongside her: Clive Owen doing his usual granite-face act, Martin McCann hardly has any dialogue worth speaking about and just follows Pike around, and Sam Spruell makes a predictably nasty prison guard. The informer himself is played by Swede Joel Kinnaman – he of Suicide Squad of ill repute – bedecked with tatts and with the pre-requisite muscles. And that’s about all there is to his performance, apart from him shaking his head in disbelief every time he’s double crossed. We’re with him on that.

Admittedly, it’s not what you’d call an A list cast, but it’s one that could have delivered so much more given a better script and tighter direction. The blame for that falls squarely at the feet of Andrea Di Stefano, who is responsible for both. There is a decent idea for a pacey crime thriller in here, but it’s buried so deep that it’s near enough vanished. And, as the film goes on, you’re less inclined to try and find it. Instead, you’re immersed in confusion and convention.

Freda Cooper | 2

Crime, Thriller, Action, Drama | Cert:15 | UK, 30 August (2019) | Warner Brothers | Dir. Andrea Di Stefano | Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Common, Clive Owen, Ana de Armas.

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