R | 1h 53min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 13 March 2020 (USA, Limited)
Crime-drama films can be tough to pull off. Because they’re typically set in a real time and place, they have to portray their stories realistically, with believable acting and good directing. Many fail in this regard, such as my last review on the crime yarn “Spenser Confidential,” where it was oh-too-obvious that we were watching actors playing characters. However, it doesn’t necessarily take a large budget to suspend a viewer’s sense of disbelief, as with the new gritty film “The Informer,” directed by Andrea Di Stefano.
Based on the 2009 crime novel “Three Seconds,” written by a Swedish-author duo consisting of Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom, Stefano’s new film is chock-full of all sorts of mystery and deceit, as well as plot twists that are usual for the genre.
Actor Joel Kinnaman plays Pete Koslow, an ex-special operations soldier and ex-convict who is also a member of the Polish cartel in New York City. Koslow intends to snitch on his underworld boss, known as “the General” (Eugene Lipinski), and thereby send him to prison for a long time. In order to do so, he teams up with FBI agents Wilcox (Rosamund Pike) and Montgomery (Clive Owen).
However, during what is supposed to be a grand, final drug deal, all hell breaks loose when one of the gangsters on the scene murders an undercover New York City detective. The General gets wind of the killing and offers Koslow a deal: If Koslow will voluntarily go back to prison and act as a drug dealer for him, the crime boss will supposedly make sure that the ex-con’s family remains safe. Meanwhile, the FBI agents believe that this plan fits their own agenda because Koslow can also inform on the various criminal activities going on from within prison.
The film revolves around Koslow’s dealings within the prison as well as how he eventually plots a prison-break in order to reunite with his family. Although the storyline starts off decently enough, the plot become a little murky in the second act, and from there on through to the ending. Luckily, both the film’s direction and acting are so consummately performed that these few, minor cinematic missteps are forgivable.
Actress Ana de Armas is excellent as Koslow’s wife, Sofia, and you can really feel both her fear and concern for her husband and daughter. Unfortunately, her character’s role is small, so we don’t learn much more about her other than her relationship to Koslow. Likewise, Lipinski doesn’t receive the screen time that his character deserves. And when he does show up, he isn’t given many lines to work with.
Thankfully, Kinnaman’s performance as ex-con Koslow is handled with considerable aplomb. He embraces his role as a man who is desperate to get out of the fix he’s found himself in, as well as to ensure that his family remains safe from the clutches of the mob. You can almost feel his rage boiling just beneath his rather eerily quiet countenance. When violence does erupt at a few junctures during the film’s one-hour, fifty-three-minute runtime, it isn’t overly gory or needlessly savage, but rather fits each scene well.
The way in which the film ends will probably divide audiences. Its ambiguity probably won’t suit some tastes, at least those who seem to require that things be wrapped up neatly, with every single plotline clearly explained.
But for those of us who appreciate nuance and subtlety over pomp and spectacle, “The Informer” is a suspenseful, deftly constructed crime drama that should appeal to fans of the genre.
Director: Andrea Di Stefano
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Ana de Armas, Clive Owen
Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Release Date: March 13 (USA, limited)
Rated: 3 stars out of 5