Bret Easton Ellis stories are always worth a look if you’re in the mood for a good downward spiral. Filthy rich kids who have everything on the outside and struggling to find something on the inside get strung out on drugs or sex and end up dead or, at the very least, hitting rock bottom. And who doesn’t enjoy watching rich kids hit rock bottom? More than that, who doesn’t fantasize about being in the very same fast lane? In movies like The Informers, rock bottom is a slick and sexy place to be. But it can also be bleak, monotone and depressing.
The story follows a whole host of rich folks in 1983. There’s the rich kid drug dealer Graham (Jon Foster), who’s fumbling for a grip on life with only his dysfunctional parents (Billy Bob Thornton and Kim Basinger) to look up to. Not easily done – mom is on drugs and dad is trying to rekindle an affair with local news woman Cheryl Laine (Winona Ryder). There’s his trollop of a girlfriend, Christie (Amber Heard, naked as often as possible), who is into as much recreational sex and drug use as she can stand. His best friend Martin (Austin Nichols) isn’t much help – he’s bedding Christie every chance he gets, though to be fair most of the time Graham is involved with that, too. Uh… and what else… there’s Tim, Graham’s friend from school, who goes on vacation with his dad (Chris Isaak), the main point of the vacation seeming to be that dad wants to make sure Tim isn’t gay. And then there’s Jack (Brad Renfro), the man at the desk in Graham’s building. He’s friends with no-good Peter (Mickey Rourke) who is into doing some seriously despicable stuff for easy cash.
They are all sort of orbiting rock star Bryan Metro (Mel Raido) who is going through a lot of the same things these people are – only he’s the only one is absolutely adrift with no one who could throw him a line. He’s got all the things everyone else in the story think they want, whether it’s fame or money or power or love. But he has no more an idea how to deal with any of that then they do.
And so – everyone in the story is miserable. Which from a moral stand-point, on the level of an after school special, they should be. No one is honest with each other. No one really cares about each other. Everyone is greedy, selfish, cowardly. Why should a group of people whose lives revolve around money, drugs, and sex ever have fun with it?
That’s a good question. Money, drugs and sex. At some point someone must’ve been having fun with this combination, right? There had to be a time, surely, when all of this seemed like a good idea. But the makers of The Informers have dropped us right in the middle – in media res, as they say – at the point where the fun is turning into a desperate grab at recapturing better times and the future is a big brick wall called AIDs.
The downbeat mood hurts The Informers, because without the contrast of better times, the downward spiral feels more like an affectation. And does anyone remember the early ’80s as a time of introspective angst? Early ’90s, sure. But the early ’80s was all day-glo, was it not? Even the rock band – which gives the movie its name – looks and sounds more like a Nine Inch Nails cover band than something of the Duran Duran period. The thing is, for a story that is supposed to be so steeped particularly in 1983, it doesn’t much resemble any 1983 most of us ever saw. Rewinding to before the AIDs epidemic still can’t lend more doom to the proceedings than are already on these people’s faces. AIDs seems like it will be a welcome Armageddon. Something has to stop the train they’re on – might as well be death.
So maybe the argument that The Informers should be more fun is a shallow one. But fun isn’t really what’s missing here. It all adds up to a very good-looking movie feeling very flat. Even with one story playing out with some welcome suspense toward the end, there’s not enough here to keep this movie with you after it’s over. Maybe if we could’ve taken a second to be seduced into this world, to want to be these people
Everything about this production looks top notch, presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic 1080p, the only exception being the behind-the-scenes extra that seems mostly out of focus. Feature audio is a sharp Dolby TrueHD 5.1 with much 80s worthy music and extras are in both surround and stereo.
Director & Cast Commentary – Director Gregor Jordan, Jon Foster and Lou Taylor Pucci talk about making the film. As knowledgeable, can’t help thinking it would’ve been great to hear from Ellis on some of this stuff.
Human Intersections: Making The Informers – An oddly out-of-focus behind-the-scenes this-was-the-best-movie-to-work-on-ever piece. (15:26)
As much as this rich kid nihilism is usually a hoot, The Informers feels bloodless, favoring low times over high times and leaving everyone at least as miserable as they were at the beginning.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents The Informers. Directed by: Gregor Jordan. Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke, Jon Foster, Amber Heard, Rhys Ifans, Chris Isaak, Brad Renfro. Written by: Bret Easton Ellis & Nicholas Jarecki Running time: 98 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: August 25, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Billy Bob Thornton, Mickey Rourke, Winona Ryder