Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Informant! [movie review]

* Released theatrically in September 2009; available on DVD March 23rd
The Informant! is the latest film from director Steven Soderbergh and his name being attached to the project may be enough to keep most moviegoers away. Not unlike my criticism of director Roland Emmerich in my review of his latest movie, 2012, Soderbergh has an extremely shoddy track record with his directorial work since the turn of the century, although with much different (and significantly less commercial) material than that of Emmerich. Since 2001's entertaining Ocean's Eleven, the overrated filmmaker has given us Full Frontal, Solaris, Ocean's Twelve, Bubble, The Good German, Ocean's Thirteen, Che: Part One and Part Two, and The Girlfriend Experience. The only one on that list I never saw was Bubble (lucky me, I suspect) and the second part of Che (the first part, at a slow-as-molasses-in-January two hours and fifteen minutes, was more than enough for me). So by my count, that's about 14 wasted hours of my life I'll never get back, all at the hand of one man.
Actually, you can add another 108 minutes to that, which is how long The Informant! runs. It's supposed to be a dark comedy, but it's about as funny as The Insider, another corporate whistle blower film...that was about as serious as a drama gets. There is so much about this film to dislike, whether it's the supposedly clever exclamation point in the title (which wasn't in the book title of the same name written by Kurt Eichenwald, on which the film is based), the challenging narrative, the grating hipster 60's score from Marvin Hamlisch that more than fulfilled my yearly quota of xylophone and surf music, the lacklustre supporting performances (led by Scott Bakula as an FBI agent), or the unmemorable leading role played by Matt Damon.
Damon plays Mark Whitacre, the vice president of Illinois agricultural conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland, who blew the whistle on his company for their involvement in global food additive price-fixing with their competitors. Whitacre is an enigma whose irrational behaviour and warped thinking appear completely at odds with someone who had the ability to set himself apart from the pack and become a rising young executive star at one of the 50 largest U.S. corporations. Despite informing(!) on his co-workers (which also entangles himself in the price-fixing), he has delusions of grandeur that his role in exposing the corporate malfeasance will lead to a sizeable promotion. Then there's the fact that the FBI investigation uncovers a skeleton in Whitacre's closet that further displays his amazing lack of common sense for having not connected the potentially self-implicating dots between the two.
The changes to Damon's appearance for the role may seem drastic on paper (30 extra pounds of weight, hairpiece, cheesy moustache, and a prosthetic bulbous nose), but they're actually quite subtle and serve to enhance his performance as an unlikeable weasel. The key word there is "unlikeable", though, which makes it a huge challenge spending almost two hours in Whitacres's world of lies and deceit, as crafted by Soderbergh's pretentious hand that once again turns in yet another deadly dull film effort.
Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

5 comments:

  1. I saw Bubble at TIFF a few years back. I have it on DVD and will lend it to you if you like. It's not a great film but you have to give the guy credit. He's experimental in the way the new wave directors liked to try new things.

    Overrated? Shoddy track record? So by your measure, a film or a director is only good or successful if their film makes gobs of money? I haven't seen The Informant! yet but it received some great reviews. I can't wait to see it.

    I'm trying to figure out why it took you 7 films or 14 hours to figure out that you don't like Soderbergh's work.

    BTW, I always have to post my comments twice when I leave them with Name/URL. I get a message in red above this box that says "Your request could not be processed. Please try again."

    I'll click "Post Comment" in a few seconds and I'll get a message that says my Comment was received. Some people may not be as patient as me.

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  2. Uh, I'll pass on 'Bubble', thanks. And big box office has nothing to do with whether I think a movie is successful or not. It's just my opinion that nearly all the Soderbergh movies I listed were terrible. And just because he takes artistic risks doesn't give him a pass - crap is still crap. I mean, 'Solaris' and 'The Girlfriend Experience' were just atrocious IMO, as was this new one.

    That's a good question, about me continuing to watch his movies if I like dislike so many of them. The reason I keep going back is good reviews, good casts, and interesting subject matter which, most of the time, is poorly executed (in my opinion) and simply not entertaining for me. Now I'm at the point with him where I'm going to have to really, REALLY want to see one of his future movies if I'm going to invest the time.

    I just tested the comment feature by logging out of the blog and trying to post as if I was another person and had no problems.

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  3. Oh, and I forgot to add...I was just WAITING for an irate comment from you after ripping on your buddy, Steven. lol

    Forgot to mention it to you last night.

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  4. I just recorded "The Girlfriend Experience". I'll let you know what I think.

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  5. My condolences in advance for your time wasted.

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