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The Informers

"The Informers" review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Remember the 1955 William Holden/Jennifer Jones movie, "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing"? Well, "The Informers," directed by Gregor Jordan, is a many-threaded thing. Derived from a series of interrelated short stories (same title) with occasionally connecting characters, it's a 1994 publication written by literary Brat Packer, Bret Easton Ellis.

Earlier works by Ellis that made it to the big screen are "Less Than Zero," "American Psycho" and "Rules of Attraction" (Lots of big names were early in their careers in those). Ellis is from a well-to-do, Los Angeles area family and has other books in the works for more moviemaking.

"The Informers" is also redolent of other modern-day decadence: films that would include "Pulp Fiction," "Crash" (1996 and 2004) and "Two Days in the Valley."

Brat Pack II
Frontline dudes: Rhys Ifans and Mel Raido

Watching "The Informers" makes me think that all of the soulless characters jammed into it are people with whom Mr. Ellis might actually have shared some sort of conviviality, if that's what I can call it. I hasten to add that I feel that way because all of the characters seem so real, albeit all alike.

Soulless? Yes, but just as much as that, they're totally narcissistic, abusive of all kinds of substances, have voracious sexual appetites and wouldn't know what being a real friend to someone is if it bit them on the Rolex.

The cast is large. Much of it consists of unfamiliar young actors. Maybe some in this cast will emerge as did Reese Witherspoon and Robert Downey, Jr. from earlier Ellis stories.

None of the fresher faces in "The Informers" comes off needing to be kept under any sort of heavy surveillance for future stardom, so keeping track of who's who with these new faces of 2009 is a job unto itself.

The ones who can be recognized right off and kept straight in your head are the not so young: Billy Bob Thornton as a mega-rich film producer; Kim Basinger as his overmedicated, estranged wife with an eye for the younger dudes; Winona Ryder as B-Bob's TV anchor mistress and Mickey Rourke doing possibly the sleaziest role he's ever done which includes Harry Angel in "Angel Heart."

Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke

Here, Mick is a kidnapper, as well. And when writing the word "kidnapper," I emphasize, "kid": not only a young boy he's nabbed for ransom but a 16 year-old girl who he keeps stoned and is (What can I say?) not so fatherly to at bedtime. Lisa Bonet was too old to play this role in "The Informers" as she did with Mr. Rourke in "Angel Heart."

Two other characters compete well with Mr. Rourke in providing enough sleaze for this picture. Music guy, Chris Isaak plays an alcoholic father of one of the less-hedonistic young men in the crowd. And Brit Mel Raido shows up in the role of a rock star that makes Keith Richards seem more like Jimmy Stewart than the Rolling Stones' second banana.

Bret Easton Ellis calls his literature Trangressive---a term for Art first used by filmmaker, Nick Zedd. To be Trangressive as an artist is to transgress or outrage or violate basic sensibilities and mores.

I think "The Informers" does a good job of that, and all of it without so much as a mention of the cautionary NC-17. R is the rating. It rivals HBO's "Deadwood" series for coarse language.

Billy Bob Thornton and Kim Basinger

Billy Bob Thornton and Kim Basinger

About halfway in, the film began to draw me in. Especially in a scene with Kim Basinger where she's giving B-Bob what for. Her anger is real.

Difficulty lies in films such as this with our not caring for any of the characters. So, for some, it's the decadence that focuses our outrage or enjoyment, if you will. Of all the many roles seen in "The Informers," only one character passes the humanity test by actually doing something for another person. Seeing it happen was like taking a nice, long, warm shower. But it's only seconds on the screen.

Titling the film the same as the short stories makes sense as previous Ellis titles have been successful, but "The Informers" doesn't really say what the picture is about. Here's a better one. And it comes from the film's dialogue.

One young man and another are arguing in a car. The first one says, "You already have everything!" The second shouts, "Well, I want something more than this!" Really, "Something More Than This." That just about says it all, because these folks "got nothin'."

"The Informers" made today strange. As I walked from the theater back to the downtown parking garage where I'd left my car on the fifth level, there was a woman perched at the edge of the garage threatening to jump from the sixth story roof. The garage is just across the street from the Capital building. I first thought that the Capital had been evacuated for some reason.

Best news for today: she didn't.

"The Informers" official site.

Opens 4/24 @ AMC Southroads 20.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net.

Copyright © 2009, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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