Predominantly filmed and funded in the UK, based on a Swedish crime novel, led by an Italian director and set in New York City. You could say “The Informer” is a movie full of international flavor. Even the cast it brings together fits the description. You have Joel Kinnaman (Swedish), Rosamund Pike and Clive Owen (both British), Common (American), and Ana de Armas (Cuban).
Despite its impressive assemblage of global talent, “The Informant” feels very much like a homemade Big Apple crime thriller. It plays in the same park as Scorsese’s “The Departed” and Affleck’s “The Town”, both of which were set in Boston but have the same gritty street-smart point-of-view. Director Andrea Di Stefano has his hands full managing the thick plot lines and numerous characters. But for the most part he pulls it off, only slipping a bit during the film’s entertaining yet hard-to-swallow finish.
A steely, tattooed Joel Kinnaman plays Pete Kosolow, a Gulf War veteran with PTSD who was sentenced 20 years for killing a thug in a bar fight. Now he’s an FBI informant posing as a drug runner for a powerful underground Polish kingpin known as The Captain (Eugene Lipinski). It’s not Pete’s preferred line of work especially with a loving wife Sofia (Ana de Armas) and a beautiful young daughter Anna (Karma Meyer) at home. But working with the feds is the only thing keeping him out of prison.
Pete is told by his FBI handler Agent Wilcox (Rosamund Pike) that an upcoming fentanyl shipment could be his ticket out. But when the job goes bad and an undercover NYPD cop named Gomez (Arturo Castro) is killed, Pete finds himself as the scapegoat for the mob. They force him back behind bars where he is to oversee their prison drug distribution. Special Agent Montgomery (Clive Owen), Wilcox’s boss and head of the FBI’s New York City field office, refuses to pull Pete out and instead forces him to keep tabs on the Captain’s prison dealings. But once Pete’s usefulness runs out, both Montgomery and the mob cut his protection.
With Pete deemed expendable that means his family is too. And with the FBI wiping their hands clean, their only hope may be Common’s NYPD Detective Grens (Common) who’s plagued by guilt and determined to find out who killed Gomez. It’s the perfect role for Common who often has a hard time emoting anything other than super serious. His character becomes a meaningful yet underdeveloped piece of this densely layered narrative.
The entire story is driven by Kinnaman whose stone-faced toughness is often given away by the anguish in his eyes. There are also these slight cracks of rage that hint at the more unstable side of his character. Kinnaman fits the part well. Most of the other performances are equally solid especially a well cast Clive Owen who once again reminds us that he’s really, really good regardless of the role.
“The Informer” nimbly plays within its gritty crime genre, maintaining a propulsive pace that keeps its audience on their toes. It all tangibly plays out within the moral malaise of underworld violence and crooked law enforcement. It’s not particularly original or groundbreaking and its ending essentially undermines all the effort put into selling the FBI’s deviously smart control. At the same time it packs its share of surprises and its attractive cast alone is enough to keep you engaged. “The Informer” opens November 6th on VOD.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS￼