The Informer

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Joel Kinnaman in The Informer.
Joel Kinnaman in The Informer.
Photo: Empire Entertainment

The Informer




3/5 Stars


Reformed criminal and former Special Ops soldier Pete Hoffman must work undercover for crooked FBI handlers in order to free himself from jail and return to his wife and daughter.

To infiltrate the Polish mob’s drug trade in New York, in a final step toward freedom, Hoffman must return to the one place he’s fought so hard to leave—Bale Hill Prison—where his mission becomes a race against time as a drug deal goes wrong and threatens to reveal his mole identity.


The Informer is about as generic a title for a crime-thriller as you can hope to find, but that's pretty fitting considering just how thoroughly generic a thriller The Informer is. That's not to say it's a bad film, necessarily, but it is so thoroughly paint-by-numbers that I can't imagine anyone but committed fans of generic thrillers getting anything out of it. I certainly didn't.

But then, cards on the table time, the generic thriller is absolutely one of my least favourite sorts of film – it may even be my least favourite once you get past "misery-" and/ or "torture-porn". Thrillers, by their very nature, tend to have shallow characterisation; overly convoluted and cliché plots; bland dialogue; and a fatal lack of a sense of humour to puncture their inevitable and utterly undeserved self-seriousness. They are, ironically, the very opposite of thrilling.

This is not, of course, a hard and fast rule. There have been very effective thrillers that have either a sense of fun about them or are genuine white-knuckle experiences. It's just that they are, frankly, rather few and far between. And, now that crime-thrillers have gone out of vogue in today's cinematic landscape and seem to mostly be released as a cheap and easy way for studios to fill up their release schedules between their major blockbusters and their push for awards glory, you're even less likely to come across one of these rare beasts.

And, make no mistake, despite being a perfectly adequately put-together genre picture that's less actively awful than, say, the latest contemptuous Bruce Willis vehicle, The Informer is anything but one of those rare beasts. Even its release date cannot be more indicative of just how much a piece of irrelevant filler The Informer is. That it has a fairly first-class cast and is co-written by an accomplished, if unspectacular, screenwriter like Rowan Joffe doesn't obscure that fact, even if it does leave one wondering why such talented people would get involved with something this uninspiring in the first place.

Money is the obvious factor, of course, as can be seen by Clive Owen's one-note, phoned-in performance as an FBI boss who is presumably supposed to be the flip-side of the evil crime lord but is so stuck in pure-asshole mode that he never amounts to any more than a caricature of a thousand other Clive Owen performances. At the same time, it's easy enough to understand why Ana De Armas agreed to such a thankless role as our hero's put-upon wife as she presumably shot this before finally getting her much deserved breakthrough in Knives Out.

What really makes no sense, though, is that Rosamund Pike, an accomplished and surely much-in-demand actress, doesn't just echo Clive Owen's entirely apathetic, purely mercenary performance but is clearly actually trying here to give some emotional life and moral complexity to a film desperately in need of both. Her performance is so committed, in fact, that whenever the focus shifts to her FBI handler character, it feels like a completely different and significantly better film.  

And pity poor Joel Kinnaman, a perfectly watchable screen presence, who is once again stuck starring in a film that simply doesn't have a chance in hell of translating his solid TV work into a similarly effective big-screen career.   

So, with all this said, why such a high score? And why, as I'm sure you're wondering, have I spent so little time actually reviewing the film in question?

The answer to both is actually fairly simple: there's really nothing here to actually sink one's teeth into, nothing that surprises and nothing that will inspire anything other than boredom in those of us who are not fans of the genre, but director and co-writer Andrea Di Stefano clearly has such a mastery of the generic conventions of this sort of film that he hardly ever really puts a foot wrong. It's mediocre in a way that I personally hate, but it's also so professionally made that I can't imagine those who are (inexplicably) fans of the genre and who have been notably under-served by Hollywood these past few years, not getting plenty out of it.

It's also such a typical example of what it is that it all but reviews itself – making me, and other reviewers like me, fairly superfluous in this case, which actually makes our job here that much more difficult. After all, even the most expansive thesauruses contains only so many ways to say "meh".

And I, sir, am no thesaurus.

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