'Informers' horribly bleak


POSTED: Thursday, April 23, 2009

What is it about 1984? George Orwell, looking forward, imagined a dystopian era of government repression. Pretty bleak. Bret Easton Ellis, looking back, fixates on lizardy creatures in human form snorting and screwing in the neon wastelands of Los Angeles, where night is lit like day and daytime is when you pass out.





        Rated: R

Opens tomorrow in theaters 1/2




Pretty bleak, and a bummer too.

Why do people make movies of Ellis' books? The only one that worked—a little bit—was “;American Psycho,”; and that was only because it was self-parody. Ellis has one groove only, and that is a heartless, zombiefied community of self-loathers who drift from one cheap thrill to another, anything to ignite the corpses they wear as bodies. It's not that the characters are carefree; it's that they care for nothing. And without that spark, why should we care about them?

“;The Informers”; book is a collection of short stories, and the movie is a collection of short stories, cut up in a colander and spewed onto the screen, with nothing apparently connecting them. Except, perhaps, the listless stain of ennui. This is a movie for people who get up at 4 a.m. to smoke.

In the original, some of the characters are vampires, which makes more sense than this totem of craven sleaze. Here they just act like vampires.

It's 1984, all right, and the players mostly dip into each others' rapidly fading moist areas, and AIDS is a faint rumble on the horizon. The characters include a loathsome movie producer (Billy Bob Thornton), on the outs with his loathsome wife (Kim Basinger), and what appears to be a loathsome blond son (Jon Foster) who has some sort of relationship with a loathsome—but attractively topless—blond girl, who, by the film's end, is expiring on a deserted beach, we know not how.

There is also some sort of appended plot line in which a dissolute dad (Chris Isaak) takes his drinking-age son on a trip to Hawaii, on a beach that is clearly not Hawaii, where they have a kind of standoff of expended will. Where are the great white sharks when we need them?

Rounding out the cast is Winona Ryder as a jerky TV newscaster; Mel Raido as a “;rock star”; who, surprise, is befuddled on coke and underage groupies; Mickey Rourke, looking more and more like the Elephant Man, as a scumbag who kidnaps kids for purposes the movie is coy about explaining; and Brad Renfro in his last movie role, playing a wannabe film actor who sprays out filthy perspiration like a collie emerging from a sewer. It's entirely possible this role killed Renfro.

It's obvious this is the movie the director and producers wanted to make, as the tech credits are first rate, and the pacing has a deliberate, insinuating creepiness. There's a repeated theme of people waking up to their humanity just a little too late.

But this is a film entirely bereft of humanity. It's as if we're witnessing a crumbling civilization built by insects.