THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
MOVIE REVIEW

The Informers

'Informers' drifts along in '80s LA

Jon Foster and Amber Heard are among the star-studded cast in ''The Informers.'' Jon Foster and Amber Heard are among the star-studded cast in ''The Informers.'' (Van Redin/Senator Entertainment)
By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / April 24, 2009
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Single Page|
  • |
Text size +

'The Informers" takes place in Los Angeles in 1983, and the first question that may come to mind is: Why bother? What new lesson or anti-lesson can be gleaned from the soulless hedonism of the synth-drum decade, especially as it concerns the rich, the beautiful, and those who pretend to love them?

Seriously, so many novels and movies have plumbed the presumed moral vacuum that swirls like toilet water around the city - from "The Day of the Locust" to "Crash," with Robert Altman's 1993 "Short Cuts" providing the clearest template for this new film - that goggling at the fauna just isn't enough. The piece had better have something fresh to say. "The Informers" doesn't, nor does it seem to want to.

Gregor Jordan ("Buffalo Soldiers") directs, basing his multi-character drama on a 1994 collection of interlinked short stories by Bret Easton Ellis, who co-wrote the script. If there's a central character here, it's Graham (Jon Foster), young and blond and godlike, although he shows troubling symptoms of genuine affection for his girlfriend Christie (Amber Heard). She's also sleeping with Martin (Austin Nichols), who's also sleeping with Graham's mother, Laura (Kim Basinger), who's not sleeping with her Hollywood power-player husband (Billy Bob Thornton) because he's busy trying to sleep with news anchor Cheryl (Winona Ryder, in a brittle, agitated performance).

Over in the bad section of town lives Graham's doorman Jack, who's played by the late Brad Renfro in his final performance before his death from a heroin overdose in January 2008. Jack is sweaty and wired around the clock, but whether this is acting the film never lets on. Besides, you too might be freaked out if your uncle, played by a grungy Mickey Rourke in his pre-"Wrestler" guttural badness, showed up at the door with a jailbait girlfriend and a kidnapped little boy.

Wait, there's more: A strung-out rock star (Mel Raido) drugs and date-rapes his way through a US tour while his manager (Rhys Ifans) cleans up afterward. A friend of Graham's (Lou Taylor Pucci) goes on an awful Hawaiian vacation with his boozy horndog father (singer Chris Isaak). Actually, that last subplot provides the only scenes that sting in "The Informers," since Isaak dives deep into the part of a man completely unprepared to give up his youth and Pucci conveys mortification so honestly.

The rest is a swankly shot snooze, paced at the tempo of a Depeche Mode ballad that never ends. Jordan evokes "Short Cuts" (a movie which has problems of its own) but to no purpose, since none of the characters rouse themselves from the narcotized stupor of existence enough to make us care. You come away with only the memory of Christie, the film's perfect California blonde, lying insensate on the beach in the final ravages of AIDS - a potent and frightening image the rest of "The Informers" can't live up to.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to boston.com/movienation.

THE INFORMERS Directed by: Gregor Jordan

Written by: Bret Easton Ellis and Nicholas Jarecki, from the novel by Ellis

Starring: Jon Foster, Amber Heard, Brad Renfro, Mickey Rourke, Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Lou Taylor Pucci, Chris Isaak, Mel Raido, Austin Nichols

At: Boston Common, Harvard Square, suburbs

Running time: 98 minutes

Rated: R (strong sexual content, nudity, drug use, pervasive language, and some disturbing images)