6 mins read


The Informers follows the hollow, toxic lives of the privileged and the deprived in 1980s Los Angeles. A movie producer (Billy Bob Thornton) can’t decide between his ex-wife (Kim Basinger) and his local news-anchor girlfriend (Winona Ryder); a cockney rock star finds underage sex partners are the only thing that distracts him from his drug-fueled ennui; a blond young man (Lou Taylor Pucci) loathes his boozy father (Chris Isaak) but goes to Hawaii with him anyway; another blond young man (Jon Foster) grows uncomfortable with the group sex he and his beautiful girlfriend (Amber Heard, who has more nude scenes than lines of dialogue) keep having; and a neurotic doorman (Brad Renfro, in what is sadly his last role) has an intimidating house guest (Mickey Rourke) who’s a human trafficker. This is a movie in which playing Pat Benatar at a funeral is a symbol of emptiness; a movie in which beautiful people respond to vague unhappiness by becoming emotionally inert; a movie in which glossy depictions of sex and drug use are intended to capture ineffable angst and alienation. It is, in short, a movie based on a Bret Easton Ellis novel, this time with a screenplay written by Ellis himself. Regrettably, it has neither the vapid but energetic editing of The Rules of Attraction nor the vulnerable face of Robert Downey, Jr., from Less Than Zero. Pucci (Thumbsucker) provides some sympathetic charisma. Also featuring Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) as the predatory rock star’s bored manager.


Based on a collection of short stories by cult author Bret Easton Ellis, The Informers centres around a group of nihilistic twentysomethings (Jon Foster, Amber Heard and the late Brad Renfro) living in an early eighties Los Angeles, posing in Wayfarers by day and engaging in drug and sex fuelled antics by night. In following their vacuous exploits, a multi-stranded web of characters emerge –  a substance-addled New Romantic rock star (Mel Raido), a prim newsreader (Winona Ryder), a criminal come child snatcher (Mickey Rourke) and a depressingly disconnected and mutually adulterous middle-aged couple (Billy Bob Thornton and Kim Basinger) – spanning a spectrum from high class debauchery to downtown depravity.

Although Ellis’s writing style is difficult to translate to screen, many film versions have been critically and commercially successful – Less Than Zero although sadly hijacked with a misplaced anti-drug message holds a certain charm, Christian Bale’s brilliant Patrick Bateman appeared in a humourous version of American Psycho, and Rules of Attraction captured the non-linear style of the novel effectively. The success of these films lies in the various appropriations and adaptive techniques employed to transform them from Ellis’s superficially simple but truly complex prose, rather than an attempt to transcribe them more faithfully in a visual sense. However, with a screenplay promisingly co-written by Ellis with Nicholas Jarecki, The Informers seemed move towards a more direct cinematic rendering of one of Ellis’s creations. However, following the replacement of Jarecki as director by Gregor Jordon, the “absurdist, lighthearted, and expansive satire” promised by Ellis in pre-production has failed to emerge.

The whole film seethes with dark despondency, failing to present any comic relief or bright moments amongst the desperate criminals, unprotected lovers and uncontrollable rock stars. Rampant with random acts of debauchery, a total lack of supervision (which Graham practically begs for), and unexplainable violence, The Informers suffers from dire need of significance. With too many characters, representing the top and bottom of 1980’s LA life, along with inconsequential dialogue and relations to fill in the gaps, the reasons behind any of the characters or their multiple narrative subplots is painfully obscure. Much is explored but nothing is explained. It is impressive, however, that the large cast of familiar faces agreed to participate in a film that struggles so desperately to get to the point.

The Blu-Ray is light on special features. You get a commentary and a look behind the source material. But, the A/V Quality is strange as the audio comes across very thin in heavy dialogue scenes. That might’ve worked for Robert Altman in his prime, but that doesn’t do a film any favors in the HD age. Sure, the visuals are strong for an indie flick. But, I can’t hear what half of these people are trying to say. When it becomes an endurance test to make out what Thornton is saying to Ryder by the end of the movie, you’re in trouble. Therefore, I only recommend it for a rental.

RELEASE DATE: 08/25/09

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