Review by Sean Boelman
Andrea Di Stefano’s crime thriller The Informer has struggled to make its way to audiences, having been delayed multiple times due to its distributor’s financial troubles. It’s a shame too, because this is a surprisingly entertaining flick despite occasional predictability and consistently straightforward execution.
The film follows an ex-convict working as an informant for the FBI as he purposefully gets re-incarcerated in order to take down a powerful drug ring. It’s a unique concept that takes the familiar beats of the undercover snitch storyline and puts a spin on them, resulting in the movie feeling refreshing even though it doesn’t always defy expectations.
Admittedly, it takes a while for the main conflict to kick in, but the first half of the film is still quite entertaining. Much of the first hour feels like a pulpy thriller, following a mobster who is increasingly disillusioned with his life of crime, but as things start to really go up in flames, it becomes far more interesting.
One of the movie’s weaknesses is that it tries to juggle too many storylines. The clear protagonist is the eponymous pusher-turned-informant, but there are other characters that pop up along the way. The FBI handler who grows a conscience about her ethically grey actions is a solid addition, but an NYPD officer investigating the death of one of their own feels like dead weight.
That said, the family aspect of this story hits unexpectedly hard. What allows the film to stand out from the mass of other movies about well-intentioned former criminals who hope to get out but find themselves trapped in an unsavory profession is the fact that the protagonist’s family is legitimately developed and sympathetic.
Joel Kinnaman plays a role similar to many others he has played before, but he does a good job, bringing a quiet humility to his grizzled character. Rosamund Pike is fine here, although the role is nowhere near as demanding as her more successful work. Common and Clive Owen are both out-of-place with parts that aren’t that substantial in the first place.
In terms of execution, Di Stefano’s visual style leaves a lot to be desired. There is very little visual tension created by the cinematography and editing, so thankfully the script has enough suspense to suffice. Even in the climactic sequence, taking place mostly in one room, the blocking and sense of geography are lacking.
The Informer is much more fun than one would expect. It rides a premise that is just unique enough to be intriguing but familiar enough to be mindless to deliver a thrilling and resonant ride.
The Informer hits VOD on November 6.