, 98 min, 2008
Jon Foster (Graham Sloan), Billy Bob Thornton (William Sloan), Austin Nichols (Martin), Amber Heard (Christie), Lou Taylor Pucci (Tim), Fernando Consagra (Bruce), Aaron Himelstein (Raymond), Mel Raido (Bryan Metro), Rhys Ifans (Roger), Germán Tripel (Bryan’s Guitarist (as German Tripel)), Kim Basinger (Laura Sloan), Winona Ryder (Cheryl Moore), Brad Renfro (Jack), Suzanne Ford (Bruce’s Mother), Cameron Goodman (Susan Sloan), Mickey Rourke (Peter). Directed by Gregor Jordan and produced by Noli McCool and Marco Weber. Screenplay by Bret Easton Ellis & Nicholas Jarecki, based on a novel by Ellis.
The Informers is a soap opera in an emotional void, a slice of decadent life, a plotless and (nearly) pointless ramble through the underworld of 1983 Los Angeles. Somewhere in the metropolis, an orgiastic party occurs at a posh mansion, complete with fire fountains. A young man gets hit by a car and dies. His friend runs out into the middle of the street, clutching his hand. He’s stunned.
The cast: Graham (Jon Foster) is a drug provider and the affluent, young son of movie executive William (Billy Bob Thornton), who is in a trial separation from trophy wife Laura (Kim Basinger), whom he’s considering “going back to” – as if marriage were simply a color of wall paper to settle on when you tire of your more recent style. William has been seeing local news reporter Cheryl Laine (Winona Ryder), who is frustrated at his indifference – and is growing indifferent. Graham’s best friend is Martin (Austin Nichols of TV’s John from Cincinnati), a music video director who has been sleeping with Laura. Christie (Amber Heard) sleeps with everyone, taking part in a two male-two female foursome (yes). Bryan Metro (Mel Raido) is the British rock star whose band The Informers is the film’s namesake; he is stoned out of his gord, making his way through the wilderness of Los Angeles on tour, vaguely hoping to reconnect with his ex-wife Nina (Simone Kessell), who in turn is sleeping with Martin, the video director.
You see how it is. There is also Tim Price (Lou Taylor Pucci), one of Graham’s circle of “friends” who goes with father Les Price (Chris Isaak) to Hawaii for some “father-son bonding” and must spend much of the time proving he isn’t gay, which only results in his father trying to pick up his date.
The most involving storyline by far – indeed, the only one – concerns Jack (Brad Renfro, in his final performance before dying of a heroin overdose), the hotel desk clerk who has appeared in commercials, aspires to be an actor, provides the movie’s best scintilla of observation: “In this business, you have to be willing to do some pretty awful things. I guess I’m willing.” His uncle Peter (Mickey Rourke, following his Oscar-deserving turn in The Wrestler with yet another sleaze-tastic supporting role) is the overwhelming creep who enlists Jack in a scheme to take a little boy and do something unspeakable with him, or at least to enable someone else to. Jack proves to be perhaps the only character in the film with something of a conscience; his storyline is, perhaps not coincidentally, the only one I grew invested in and the only one I wanted to see through beyond the ending credits.
The film was directed by the Australian Gregor Jordan (Buffalo Soldiers, Ned Kelly) and is based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, who co-adapted it with Nicholas Jarecki. The film is something of a plotless mosaic, consisting of several seemingly tenuously connected vignettes involving the relationships between the characters, their desperations and needs; it could be called Six Degrees of Separation Between Depravities.
As Ellis’ work goes, this is not as darkly, twistedly funny as American Psycho (filmed in 2000 by Mary Harron), or as downbeat and seriously thought-provoking as Less Than Zero (filmed in 1987 by Marek Kanievska) or as depressingly revolting as The Rules of Attraction (filmed in 2002 by Roger Avary). For me, the most fascinating element by far was the storyline involving Rourke and the late Renfro, who appears to be literally sweating and vibrating with nerves, fear and dread; indeed, he may have been going through heroin withdrawal during filming, but it still comes across as perfect for the performance. Rourke is the polar opposite, a sleazeball who is a totally dominant force.
Meanwhile, the other characters drift in and out of each others’ orbits to little or no effect; they bitch and moan and are utterly numb to each others’ betrayals and feelings. If they don’t care what’s going on between them that much, why should we?
There is a scintilla of a message – somewhat heavy-handedly foreshadowed, turns out – about the burgeoning tide of AIDS and how it will affect the hedonistic lifestyles of the rich and nihilistic herein, but it comes a bit too little, too late for us to really care. Other than that, in the end, this is much ado about nothing.