For an actor who made his name in gentle, reflective pieces like Life of Pi and Eat Pray Love; Andrea Di Stefano is no shrinking violet as a director. His second directorial feature is The Informer, a brutal but frequently compelling thriller adapted from a Swedish novel.
Pete Koslow (Joel Kinnaman) is a convicted felon on parole and informing for the FBI. Agent Wilcox (Rosamund Pike) has promised him closure if he can infiltrate a Polish drug gang led by the General (Eugene Lipinski). However, the final payoff is ruined when an undercover cop is murdered. The General orders Koslow to break his parole, enter prison and supervise his drug operation. He is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place; but Wilcox forces him back inside to complete his mission. Meanwhile, NYPD Detective Grens (Common) is investigating the murder and confronted by duplicitous FBI boss Montgomery (Clive Owen). Koslow's feisty wife Sophia (Ana de Armas) and daughter Ana have also been targeted by the gang as insurance.
The film puts the viewer into familiar even comfortable territory. Koslow is the flawed but essentially good guy trapped in a hole that just gets deeper. His golden haired wife and daughter are constant reminders of the happiness he craves; but who can he really trust? Joel Kinnaman wears his action man credentials with pride and looks like Arnie in training; not that his performance was any less effective for it. Rapper Common delivers an effective portrayal as inquisitive cop Grens while Ana de Armas has telegenic presence as Sophia.
There is much to admire in the film’s overall construction and commitment to a transparent plot. The scene transitions are well executed; contrasting Koslow as the doting father and then the calculating FBI informer is a nice touch. But the film's underlying strength is also its weakness. The efficient plotting feels predictable and almost formulaic. The prison scenes are reminiscent of numerous film and TV productions and make The Informer feel dangerously anonymous. The climax although gripping, seems highly unlikely and stretches credibility to breaking point. Suspending disbelief doesn’t go nearly far enough; it requires immediate dismissal without notice. But hey, why let logic get in the way of a good yarn? For all that it’s still highly watchable with enough activity to hold the attention.