Despite the uber-talented all-star cast and the (however dubious) source material by the ever-problematic Bret Easton Ellis novel, “The Informers” has never caught on with audiences or critics, which continues to mystify me. Its aggressive, flippant shallowness seems to be what rubs people the wrong way, but it seems to me like that’s the point: It’s a casually vicious, deliberately destabilizing indictment of the American entertainment industry of the early 1980s, with its normalized racism, homophobia, misogyny, pedophilia, and child trafficking. For me it’s precisely that willingness to “go there” with the audience, while also presenting the movie like an uber-stylized episode of “The Hills” or its ilk, highlighting the shallowness via its own surface gloss, that makes it so admirable and bold. At all times, under the sheen the hits never stop, whether it’s the willfully reckless decisions of powerful-but-mediocre men (represented by Billy Bob Thornton), the industry’s merciless ageism (represented by Kim Basinger), and the fickle, petty private battles that can result from – as well as cost – professional livelihoods and dignity (represented by Winona Ryder). In subtle ways, the cast is at the top of their game, with Ryder and Basinger delivering particularly intense, heartbreaking performances in relatively small roles, while Brad Renfro infuses his scenes with an excruciating vulnerability that cuts to the bone. It’s not exactly a pleasant watch in any way, but it’s an important one that delights in incriminating the crippling, festering wounds of privilege.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)