Review: The Informer

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

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PLOT: An FBI informant (Joel Kinnaman) embedded in the Polish mob is forced by his handlers to allow himself to be sent to prison to build a drug-running case against an elusive criminal kingpin known as “The General”. Meanwhile, on the outside, his wife (Ana de Armas) is caught between her husband’s shady FBI handler (Rosamund Pike) and an honest cop (Common), both of whom need her husband’s cooperation to serve their own interests.

REVIEW: THE INFORMER’s had a long road to the big screen, and indeed its release schedule is still something of a muddle. It’s already been released in most of Europe, while in Canada it just hit iTunes this week, although in the U.S it’s was recently slotted for a theatrical release via STX at the end of the summer. Given its availability in other regions, a digital-only release seems imminent, which is a shame as this is a top-notch thriller sporting Joel Kinnaman’s best star-turn in a feature since his debut in the Swedish hit EASY MONEY (aka SNABBA CASH).

Based on a Swedish crime novel but transposed to New York City, THE INFORMER is a dark, noirish gangster flick with a sprawling, A-list cast, but anchored by Kinnaman’s performance as the sympathetic lead. A combat vet who, in a PTSD-fuelled rage accidentally killed a man who was threatening his wife, he’s been boosted from prison by the FBI to go undercover in a Polish drug smuggling ring, but when an NYPD officer is killed during a deal gone wrong, the conditions of his assignment quickly change. Throughout the film, your sympathies are squarely focused on Kinnaman, thanks in large part to the bigger than average part played by his wife (Ana de Armas in a role filmed before KNIVES OUT), making this feel a little like the film SHOT CALLER, in that it followed another seemingly regular guy forced to become a gangster to keep himself and his family breathing while on the inside.

Rosamund Pike, despite her top billing, definitely plays a secondary part here, not only to Kinnaman but also Common, as a street cop named Grenz, a character who got spun off into a series of his own by the writers of the book this is based on. Both her and Clive Owen (as her FBI boss) are essentially the real villains of the story, with Pike only a little more reluctant than her boss to burn her informant while he’s on the inside. Pike and Owen are fine, but the roles are pretty one-note, particularly Owen, who seems typecast these days as smarmy villains (GEMINI MAN, VALERIAN, OPHELIA) but is usually much more effective as dogged heroes.

the informer Joel Kinnaman

It all adds up to a taut thriller, well directed by Andrea Di Stefano, who also made the underrated ESCOBAR: PARADISE LOST. The last act of the film is especially effective, with slam-bang execution paralleling Kinnaman’s ploy to stay alive inside while Armas does the same on the outside when both face exposure. The action, when it happens, is quick and brutal, with gruesome shots of Columbian neckties and jailhouse scraps.

One thing worth noting is that THE INFORMER was shot way back in 2017, with the North American distributor bouncing it around the calendar for years. The results in one oddball element that dates the film, with Pike having some exposition early on about what fentanyl is. Nowadays, I doubt there’s anyone left out there that doesn’t know what it is.

While it remains to be seen whether or not THE INFORMER will make its August 2020 date as scheduled or simply be put on VOD as it has here in Canada. Whatever the case may be it’s a solid little gem and one that’s worth going out of your way to check out, especially now with new releases on the back burner for a while.

The Informer



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.