The Informers is a film without a sense of clarity or coherency. It tells a great number of stories, gives none of them enough time to be worth telling, and then ends without wrapping them all up. It joins some of them mid-way through and never covers ground that we’re expected to know, and the whole time features the most unlikable cast in a movie that I can remember off the top of my head.
There are no stars, nor are there any real characters. There’s a vague plot for each of the stories, most of which can be summed up in one sentence. For example, one story involves Mickey Rourke picking a child up off the street and selling him. That’s about it. Another has a father-son duo head down to Hawaii and … sit on the beach a lot. And then there’s the one that involves a spaced-out rock star coming to Los Angeles to perform but mostly to sleep around and take copious amounts of drugs.
The main one, as far as I can tell (it has the largest number of characters), involves a man named Graham (Jon Foster), his girlfriend, Christie (Amber Heard), Graham’s parents, William (Billy Bob Thorton) and Laura (Kim Basinger), as well as his sister, Susan (Cameron Goodman). The parents have been divorced for some time, but they’re going to be moving back in together, despite William still having feelings for a television reporter named Cheryl (Winona Ryder). Meanwhile, Graham and Christie have a very open relationship, although he might be growing to love her.
Most of the film sets these people and their situations up, but then never does anything with them. One of the earliest scenes involves a death, followed by a funeral. It, unfortunately, never actually matters over the course of the film, being forgotten by even the saddest character right after the funeral is over. There isn’t any cause and effect, nor is there any real reason for anything within it to happen. I’m going to blame the drugs, as everyone seems to be on heaps of them, but it doesn’t explain how boring they act all of the time.
Perhaps we’re not supposed to care about them. Maybe The Informers wants us to recognize how lucky we are to live in the 21st Century instead of back in the archaic days of the 1980s. I’d think that was the case if any of the characters actually suffered for their actions, but apart from one that comes later on, this wasn’t the case. They go about their business, suffer no real consequences, and then do it some more — and are still miserable.
The book that this film is based on was more a collection of short stories than a real narrative-driven novel. It was written by Bret Easton Ellis (of American Psycho fame), and in case you’ve forgotten what I thought about American Psycho‘s film adaptation, let me remind you: I didn’t enjoy it. Looking back, especially after watching The Informers, I was too harsh on it. It may have suffered from many of the same problems, but at least it was coherent and had good performances. The Informers has neither.
I can see why something like The Informers could work as a book but not necessarily as a film. With the short story format, you can read through one and take a break, not having to mix that reading with other ones. You don’t have interruptions from other plot lines, and you can focus on one, seeing it through to the end. With this film adaptation, you are constantly having another story thrown in, interrupting any flow that the film tries to establish. And once that interruption occurs, it often takes 20-30 minutes to get back to the story you were starting to get into. Sometimes it takes even longer than that.
The problem comes from not only ignoring a certain plot for a great deal of time, but also including too much for a 90 minute film to handle. As a result, we get a bunch of half-stories containing no depth, character, heart, or reason to care. When emotional resonance is attempted, it falls flat. The Informers is a film that’s difficult to watch, not simply because of the content, but because it’s just not put together all that well. It seems that a lot of plot was cut for running time concerns, or perhaps there just wasn’t much there to begin with, and the writers (one of which is Ellis), should have adapted accordingly to bring the novel to the big screen.
What could have saved The Informers was actually making the stories connect, kind of like Crash. But since that never happens, the constant interruptions never lead anywhere. Looking at the film after watching it makes me think that it possibly could have worked if they were simply presented in order, with no cutting between them. And they each got 30 minutes to show us what they have to give us. Hey, that sounds like a good idea for a television show. That’s what The Informers should have been: A television show. One season could allow for each short story in the novel to be shown.
The Informers doesn’t work whatsoever. It’s a terrible film about terrible people doing terrible (and boring) things for 90 minutes with no reason or clarity to their actions. You’re watching a bunch of unhappy people do nothing to improve their situation, but also never being punished for their “immoral” actions. The film says nothing, isn’t a well-made or put together film, and is absolutely not worth the hour and a half that you’ll spend watching it.