Rating less than zero on the sophistication scale, “The Informers” is thus a totally faithful adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel — and an accurate look at early ‘80s-era Los Angeles. Stumbling alongside wasted cases at the top and bottom of the economic ladder — from Billy Bob Thornton’s near-catatonic studio exec to Mickey Rourke’s lollipop-sucking kidnapper — the film is banal by obvious intent. The only question, as with other Ellis adaptations including “American Psycho,” is whether auds will appreciate the aggressively shallow depiction of an aggressively shallow milieu, or mistake the pic’s implicit critique for the crime itself. April 10 release will tell.
Dedicated to the late Brad Renfro, who appears briefly as one of many gorgeous young zombies, “The Informers” opens with fast-motion shots of L.A. at night, but otherwise stretches time (and, no doubt, the patience of some) to mirror a warped, woozy morning after in the days when sushi, Spago and MTV were new, cocaine was ubiquitous and Ray-Bans were worn by all. Pic’s subject of rampant superficiality threatens to make it beyond reproach, though the fundamental authenticity of chic boredom here can’t easily be denied.
Standouts in the ensemble cast include Kim Basinger as the executive’s pill-popping wife Laura, who enjoys ogling her shirtless pool boy until he pulls out a rat, and Winona Ryder as Laura’s TV-newscasting rival for the spotty attention of hubby William (Thornton). Lead rich kid Graham is played with aptly ruthless longing by James Spader lookalike Jon Foster. As gravel-voiced bottom-feeder Peter, Rourke is resplendent in a full tan, Hawaiian shirt and porkpie hat, though his relatively minor role doesn’t capitalize on his opponent-pinning perf in “The Wrestler.”
Flaunting its pointed lack of plot from the outset, the film has a pretty boy in a pink blazer being run over and killed by a fellow partygoer in the first reel; then, as if as listless and jaded as its characters, it moves on to fresher meat.
Another enjoyably inconsequential scene features a British post-punk star swilling vodka in an ice tub, stepping out to light a cig, slipping on the floor and hitting broken glass while a telephone rings incessantly. Director Gregor Jordan (“Buffalo Soldiers”) stages these lurid incidents — not least a menage-a-trois set to dumb, synth-driven music spilling from a TV — to emphasize the utterly squandered privilege of the cake-eating participants.
The totally awesome soundtrack includes period hits from Simple Minds, Men Without Hats, A Flock of Seagulls, Devo and Wang Chung — which, like the film proper, deliver guilty pleasures aplenty while helping to capture the vapid spirit of the times. Tech credits are vividly handsome on all levels.