When a sting operation goes horribly wrong, FBI informant Pete Koslow (Joel Kinnaman) is forced to return to the prison he's desperately trying to avoid in order to infiltrate the Polish mob. But while he gathers evidence on the inside, the FBI higher ups are getting cold feet on the outside, and with a detective from the NYPD sniffing around, things only get worse. When his and his family's safety is put in jeopardy, Pete must take matters into his own hands.
Andrea Di Stefano's The Informer is a pretty average look at the world of informants and undercover investigations. It unfortunately suffers from a crammed plot, including all the clichés of a crime thriller and a prison movie as well. Joel Kinnaman does well as Pete Koslow, a man with everything to lose. Instead of the typical Hollywood tough guy, Koslow is a flawed man just trying to do the right thing. And whilst he is very capable, he's also under a lot of pressure and scared, something that comes across as very genuine thanks to Kinnaman's first-rate performance. This is a "David vs Goliath" story - Koslow against the world - and you want him to win. It's a shame then that the story fails to grip you the way it should.
The movie does boast a great cast, but thanks to that crammed plot they just aren't given enough to do. Rosamund Pike is very good as Koslow's conflicted handler, although she's never really given time to explore her struggle. The same can be said of Common as the police detective trying to figure out what's going on. His investigation never really seems to go anywhere. Which doesn't stop him continually antagonising the FBI, and despite mentioning an Internal Affairs investigation into his actions, he never suffers any consequences. Then there's Clive Owen as the typical FBI middle management with cold feet, Eugene Lipinski as the generic crime boss who's more arsehole than threatening and Mateusz Kosciukiewicz as his muscle who is simply there so we can enjoy seeing him get what's coming to him. Even Ana De Armas is stuck playing the damsel in distress wife, she makes stupid move after stupid move and is simply there so Koslow has something to worry about.
With all that this movie tries to do, it has a very uneven pace, a lot of the scenes with the supporting cast feel very rushed. Even the ending doesn't work properly, like they cut the movie off a few minutes early. There is a really good story here, not to mention some good performances, but it seems like all of it has been butchered to fit the movie's run time. A story like this would be more suited to a TV show format, which would allow the story and the characters to develop properly, allowing the tension to gradually build. Even that ending would make more sense as a cliffhanger that would set up a second season. Now maybe there are plans for a sequel, but I'm not sure there's enough of a story left to justify another movie.
The Informer is an entertaining - albeit underwhelming - crime thriller. Joel Kinnaman gives a very genuine lead performance, but a crammed story leaves the supporting cast with little to do. As a TV show it would have been possible to dive deeper into this story and its characters, which would have made for a more compelling and tense drama.
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