Directed by Andrea Di Stefano. Starring Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Ana de Armas, Clive Owen, Common, Eugene Lipinksi.
The Plot: Pete (Joel Kinnaman) is a New York-based Polish-American drug dealer who has a secret. He’s in deep with the FBI as an informer on his boss Klimek (Eugene Lipinski). When an attempted drugs bust goes wrong, Klimek applies pressure on Pete to go back to a maximum security prison and spread a heavily addictive new drug into the corrupt prison system. Pete’s handler Wilcox (Rosamund Pike) goes along with the changing situation, on the condition that Pete’s prior conviction be waived. Pete heads back to jail, but he’s very much on his own. There are external forces at work, from Wilcox’s arrogant boss Montgomery (Clive Owen) to NYPD detective Grens (Common) who smells a rat and starts sniffing around…
The Verdict: The criminal informer in too deep and possibly way over his/her head is a staple of the crime thriller. The Informer gives it a jazzy remix from the perspective of a bad guy trying to go straight, rather than a cop losing perspective when in deep with the crims. The title character is Pete, one tough hombre who has something to gain and everything to lose if he’s found out by his boss. He has a wife and daughter who are potential collateral damage, relying heavily on him to deliver and get out of this labyrinthine situation he finds himself in over the course of the film. This is a film about increasingly sticky situations that go from bad to worse to life-threatening, as Pete tries to play everyone and narrowly cheat death in the process.
The script, based on the book Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom, is intricately plotted like a spider’s web with lots of spiders circling one particular fly. Early scenes set up Pete’s home life then introduce the Polish mafia and their softly-spoken but deadly boss. Then there are clashes between the FBI and the NYPD over information sharing – or rather the lack of it. When Pete finally arrives in prison, there’s a whole other series of sub-plots going on here too. If it all sounds rather busily plotted and where every character is a varying shade of gray on the morality scale, then that was presumably the intention. While it keeps things interesting and turns the screws ever tighter on Pete’s predicament, it might just be too much for a film that comes in under 2 hours. There’s a TV series worthy plot arc here that has been compressed into the limited timeframe of a film.
That’s not to say that the film is without its merits though. Once the plot settles into its race-against-time mode and starts grinding away to often bloody effect, it really gets moving and doesn’t let up until the credits roll. Director Andrea Di Stefano, whose only other film is the little-seen but decent Escobar: Paradise Lost, keeps things in focus by portraying Pete with an edge of sympathy. Kinnaman is a commanding presence throughout, as good with the physicality of the role as he is with the inner moral turmoil about his actions. He’s surrounded by a quality supporting cast of mostly British and Irish actors. This is actually a British-made but American-set film which oddly enough opens in America next year (how’s that for an advance screening?).
While The Informer doesn’t offer anything too new in terms of the crime thriller, the word on the street is that it’s a solid, well-made and pulpy piece of Friday night entertainment that offers lots of thrills and plenty of bang for your buck.