Kim Basinger and Billy Bob Thornton in The Informers
. Publicity photo.
The Informers, the new film by director Gregor Jordan, attempts to shock the audience with its rampant immorality, but stumbles and quickly dissolves into an incoherent mess. A dark adaptation of a collection of seven stories by Bret Easton Ellis (the writer behind American Psycho), the film is an example of self-indulgent cinema at its worst.
The backdrop is the decay of 1980s Los Angeles and the beginning of the HIV epidemic. While the setting is integral to the plot, the film makes no effort to discover anything new or profound about the era, settling for another exhausting look at selfish extravagance and its predictable consequences.
The script, which reportedly went through a long series of rewrites (losing the vampire character from the stories in the process), is tedious and monotonous, lacking the overall unity ensemble dramas require. It fails to show that there is any real relevance between the two worlds it aims to depict. The struggles of a Hollywood big-shot, William (Billy Bob Thorton) and his drug dealer son, Graham (Jon Foster) seem to be part of a completely different movie from the one Mickey Rourke stars in as an ex-con named Peter. Rourke’s storyline eventually becomes a completely meaningless distraction. The titular rock group of the film is also largely an afterthought and its lead singer (Mel Raido) is yet another lost, miserable drug addict in a film teeming with them.
The characters of The Informers are so singularly uninteresting that even gratuitous sex scenes (and the film is packed with them) get dull. The talented ensemble attempts with little success to breathe some life into the soulless, forgettable people unaware of the impending doom that flashes at them from their television screens (almost comical mentions of the HIV virus and its symptoms pop up at random times throughout the film in the form of news telecasts). Kim Basinger, who plays William’s wronged wife, does have her moments of raw emotion, having mastered the act of the pill-popping aged beauty, but even those are stifled by the sheer misery that engulfs the whole film. Without even a glimmer of hope, the film quickly devolves into a directionless sequence of scenes featuring angry adults who think and behave like children.
By the time Graham (Foster), the film’s “protagonist”, finally becomes dissatisfied with his hedonistic existence — this is the grown man who spent a large portion of the film participating in scenes of graphic group sex — he speaks with the voice of a child: “If no one tells you what’s right and what’s wrong, how do you know?” Graham awakens from his angst-ridden amoral state too late to elicit any sympathy for his situation but his sudden change does provide a glimpse at what the story could have been if the writers had bothered to give their characters some dimension.
The film’s only redeeming quality is that its world-weary characters are able to recreate at least the illusion of living in another time without employing ridiculous hairdos and bell-bottom jeans. The not-so-subtle mentions of the rise of AIDS provide a hint that their endless sexual escapades cannot last. The image of Hollywood glamour gone awry with which the film starts presents a surprising contrast to today’s world, after the bubble that appears to enclose the sex- and drug-driven world of 1983 has burst and the accountability that is conspicuously absent from the film begins to seep in.