”I need someone to tell me what’s good. I need someone to tell me what’s bad,” whines Graham, the pretty-boy central character of The Informers. If no one tells you such things, he wails, how do you know them?
Well, Graham, most of us evolve with some sort of moral compass, thanks to parents, extended families, friends, communities, education, religion or something greater than our selfish, shallow selves. But then, not all of us are characters from a Bret Easton Ellis novel, by which I mean from the Los Angeles of 1983, when women popped pills and wore shoulder pads — when they thought to wear tops — and men woke up to the good-old-fashioned pleasures of a bong hit or random, vacuous sex with any number of random, vacuous people.
But Graham, I’ll help you out. Here’s what is bad: this movie. So now you know.
Co-written by Ellis, The Informers aims to be a pre-Crash mashup of troubled souls roaming the City of Angels while engaging in depraved but not necessarily interesting behavior. The aforementioned Graham (Jon Foster, A Door in the Floor) is allegedly in college, but all we see him do is drink, smoke, sell drugs and have sex with his girlfriend Christie (Amber Heard), who slinks around shirtless almost as much as Matthew McConaughey did in Fool’s Gold (which is to say, in most of her scenes). Christie also has sex with Graham’s friend Martin (Austin Nichols, formerly John from Cincinnati and now sporting hideous ’80s hair). Apparently Graham sleeps with him, too, but The Informers is too shy to show us any hot boy-on-boy action.
Others flit in and out of the story line: Graham’s recently reconciled parents (Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger); his dad’s ex-girlfriend, a nervous TV newswoman (Winona Ryder); the sweaty doorman at Christie’s building (Brad Renfro, who died of a drug overdose in January 2008, which indicates how long The Informers has been collecting dust); the doorman’s malevolent uncle (Mickey Rourke), who boldly kidnaps a kid off the street but appears threatened by a yuppie pedophile wearing shorts. Chris Isaak shows up as the clueless dad of one of Graham’s friends, and a walking disaster named Bryan Metro (Mel Raido) sings a bunch of gloomy ’80s songs that evoke Peter Murphy in his heyday, minus the talent. He also sexually menaces teenagers and screams at his ex-wife.
But perhaps the film’s biggest mistake is that after more than an hour of proving how pointless and vapid these characters are, it leaves us with a parting shot indicating we should care about what happens to them. We don’t. We’re just happy the movie is over. Memo to Graham: Now that’s something good — seeing the end credits roll.
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke, Winona Ryder, Jon Foster, Austin Nichols, Chris Isaak.
Director: Gregor Jordan.
Screenwriters: Bret Easton Ellis, Nicholas Jarecki. Based on the novel by Ellis.
Producer: Marco Webber.
A Senator Entertainment release. Running time: 98 minutes. Strong sexual content, nudity, drug use, pervasive language, some disturbing images.