The kind of generic-sounding thriller that came out every other week in the ’90s, ‘The Informer’ feels like more of a novelty at a time when so many crime stories find a home on the small screen. Its world of bent FBI officers, dedicated NYPD cops and vicious Polish mobsters might have occupied a whole season of ‘The Wire’ – and its tense, well-mounted early scenes don’t make a mockery of the comparison, even if its intricate plotting eventually dissolves in a daft final act.
The informer in question is Pete Koslow (Joel Kinnaman), an ex-army sniper-turned-convict whose parole terms trap him in the thankless role of FBI snitch for a shady handler (Rosamund Pike) and her even shadier boss (Clive Owen). When a sting operation ends in the murder of a cop, they leave Koslow to face the music with a sinister crime lord known as The General (Eugene Lipinski, underused). Soon, he’s back in jail trying to stay alive long enough to figure out who wants to kill him the most.
It’s a tangled web, even without Common’s pavement-pounding cop triangulating the story via a third perspective. Director Andrea Di Stefano (‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’) transplants the Stockholm-set book on which it’s based into some satisfyingly grimy New York locations and the prison scenes are suitably claustrophobic. But ‘The Informer’ is a film that favours brawn over brains, punching its way through any plot predicaments. A smart hairpin or two would have made it a juicier watch.