- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

Imagine “American Psycho” with less violence but more nudity, transplanted from New York to California and stripped of all self-awareness. That’s “The Informers.”

Based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name, “The Informers” revels in the excesses of the 1980s while simultaneously attempting to decry the hollow materialism and wanton hedonism that marked the decade. It’s a difficult trick to pull off, one director Mary Harron nailed in her adaptation of Mr. Ellis’ “American Psycho.”

That balance is lost in “The Informers.” A portion of the blame goes to Mr. Ellis, who co-wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Jarecki. There’s little in the way of humor or any awareness of just how ridiculous the characters on display in this movie are. And the deeper moral questions are answered with awkward heavy-handedness.

“The Informers” follows the trials and tribulations of a swath of Los Angelenos. There are the spoiled rich kids who spend their nights doing drugs (and each other); there’s the television executive who is cheating on his wife; there’s a visiting rock band whose lead singer is on the verge of a breakdown; there’s a nobody looking for a break into showbiz who gets caught up in a kidnapping when his no-good friend shows up on his doorstep.

What a whacky decade! Just like you remember, right?

The first problem with all these different story lines is that they never converge. The only thing that binds these people together is a general sense of malaise that seems to afflict everyone on-screen. The second problem is that the story line given the most screen time — the spoiled rich kids — also features the worst actors.

“The Informers” features an impressive cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke and Winona Ryder flit in and out of the movie. Brad Renfro also appears in his final role. (Yes, the same Mr. Renfro who died almost 15 months ago — this movie has been on the shelf for a while.)

However, those talents are mostly ignored to focus on the antics of Graham (Jon Foster), Christie (Amber Heard) and Martin (Austin Nichols). Said antics are largely unprintable in a family newspaper; suffice it to say that Miss Heard spends most of her screen time nude, and her character ends up contracting AIDS.

The actors just aren’t up to the task of carrying this film.

Mr. Foster spends most of the film doing what appears to be a poor impression of Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman — lips pursed, brow furrowed, hair impeccably coiffed. Mr. Nichols, meanwhile, sports the same vacant look and slightly cocked head he showcased in the dreadful HBO series “John From Cincinnati,” while Miss Heard expends more effort looking pretty than creating an interesting character.

TITLE: “The Informers”

RATING: R (Strong sexual content, nudity, drug use, pervasive language and some disturbing images)

CREDITS: Directed by Gregor Jordan; written by Bret Easton Ellis and Nicholas Jarecki

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

WEB SITE: www.theinformers.com/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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