“The Informers” takes us back yet again to the soul-drained 1980s of Bret Easton Ellis, upon whose 1994 short-story collection this ghastly picture is based. Yet again we’re assaulted by all the author’s period signifiers: the bored golden rich kids, the joyless drug snarfling, the handfuls of hair goop, mandatory Wayfarers, ambisexual bed wallows. Is there anyone left to be titillated by this cartoon decadence? Ellis, who also cowrote the screenplay, is said to be unhappy with the way the movie’s turned out. He won’t be alone for long.
In place of a plot, the film, which is set in L.A. in 1983, offers a skein of limp stories of surprisingly minimal interest. Billy Bob Thornton wanders through the picture, possibly with a light concussion, playing skeezy film producer William Sloan, who’s thinking of reconciling with his pill-head wife, Laura (Kim Basinger), but still has the hots for a TV newscaster named Cheryl (Winona Ryder, receiving the worst guidance of her career from director Gregor Jordan). Meanwhile, his son Graham (Jon Foster), a Porsche-driving coke dealer, is droopily distressed by the fact that his girlfriend, Christie (Amber Heard, mostly topless), is sleeping with his slimy pal Martin (Austin Nichols) — sleeping with him on her own, that is, apart from their frequent threesomes. Meanwhile, a scagged-out English rock star named Bryan Metro (Mel Raido) has brought his bad, doomy synth pop to town for a concert, but apparently left his charisma back in Blighty. Meanwhile, a rich alcoholic named Les (Chris Isaak!) is hitting the bars with his disgusted son Tim (Lou Taylor Pucci) in hopes that they can pick up a pair of young nubiles together. Meanwhile, a hotel clerk named Jack (the late Brad Renfro ) is being leaned on by a lollipop-sucking kidnapper named Peter (Mickey Rourke, a few months before he started shooting “The Wrestler”). Meanwhile … well, that’ll do.
The movie has more dead scenes than a Monday night in Magnitogorsk. Especially baffling is the one in which Cheryl stops by a diner and is loudly and perplexingly derided by a group of knuckle-dragging youths — an interlude that sags on the screen and then crumbles away to no effect. (Possibly it once related to other scenes that were dispatched by an edit-suite delete button.) The dialogue is also notably wretched. In the process of brow-beating Jack, whom he raised (or something) out in the desert, Peter says, “All there was was the sand and the rock and the silence, and you could never accept that that’s where you were meant to be.” Characters also unburden themselves of lines like “I need someone to tell me what’s good and what’s bad,” and “Is there someone here who cares?” At one point a failed actor whines, “You can’t really make it in this town unless you’re willing to do some awful things.” This movie is proof.
Don’t miss Kurt Loder’s review of “Tyson,” also new in theaters this week.
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Informers.”
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