Review: ‘The Informer’ is caught between the devil, the deep blue sea and something else

Snitches, indeed, get stitches: Joel Kinnaman plays a good man in a bad situation in "The Informer."
(Aidan Monaghan)

In “The Informer,” a good man is ruthlessly used by powerful forces that don’t care what happens to him. One only wishes the film made us care more.

Pete Koslow (Joel Kinnaman) is a second-generation Polish American, a war vet, a sniper and all-around stand-up guy who once got into a lethal bar brawl to defend his wife (Ana de Armas). After four years in prison, Pete is out and working for the Polish mob in New York City. But really, he’s working for the FBI so he can be free to be with his family. He’s handled by eager, somewhat green Agent Wilcox (Rosamund Pike) and her mean boss (Clive Owen) in an operation to ensnare the drug lord known as “The General” (Eugene Lipinski). When things go sideways, Pete is forced to go deeper undercover — back to prison — as a vengeful NYPD detective (Common) starts to unravel the whole scheme.

Joel Kinnaman plays a good man buffeted by powerful forces in the crime drama “The Informant.”

“The Informer” isn’t bad. It’s just nothing special. It relies too much on familiar elements. It’s the same throbbing score, the same expected betrayals and the same smiling, sadistic bad guys. What had the potential to be its most tense action scene resorts to the same coup de grâce from countless other movies. It’s even the same backstory as “Con Air.” Despite the multiple points of force (the mob, the FBI, the cop), the situation still doesn’t feel pressurized.


As a result, we don’t feel the desperation, the hopelessness of Pete’s situation. Really, it’s a reminder of what an accomplishment Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” is: How we sweat bullets along with the undercover protagonist during every beat of the way in that Oscar winner. Obviously, that’s unfair. Not every movie in the genre has to be on that level. But the experience of “The Informer” would be more affecting if we were more worried for its main character. Or if we felt the danger of his being behind bars again, or tension that he might be unmasked. There aren’t exactly any white-knuckle moments in the film.

Actresses of the caliber of De Armas (so good in “Knives Out”) and Pike (an Oscar nominee for “Gone Girl” who also deserved consideration for “A Private War”) feel wasted in thankless roles. It would have been nice to see more of Common’s character, but he disappears for a while. Kinnaman is just fine. Owen is in danger of being associated with too many sneering-bad-guy roles.

“The Informer” provides little more than a short-duration crime-drama fix.

'The Informer'

Rated: R for strong violence and pervasive language
Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Playing: Available on Home on Demand on November 6