The Informant (Gibraltar): Film Review

The Informant - H 2013

The Informant - H 2013

A potentially suspenseful thriller that runs out of steam way before its hero nearly runs out of time.

Gilles Lellouche and Tahar Rahim star in this international drug thriller from screenwriter Abdel Raouf Dafri ("A Prophet") and director Julien Leclercq ("The Assault").

PARIS -- A promising pitch and a catchy setting make for a rather mediocre movie in The Informant (Gibraltar), director Julien Leclercq’s follow-up to his kinetic 2010 actioner, The Assault. Like the latter film, this tale of a French expat caught between sleazy drug traffickers and corrupt customs officials was inspired by real events, adapted here to the screen by A Prophet scribe Abdel Raouf Dafri. Yet after a semi-tense first hour, the action gives way to lots of schmaltzy drama and bureaucratic bickering, never dishing out the white-knuckle suspense such a story necessitates.

Budgeted at a decent 19M€ ($25M), the Franco-Canadian co-production should rack up modest numbers for its Gallic release, with stars Gilles Lellouche (Point Blank) and Tahar Rahim (A Prophet, Grand Central) being the biggest draws locally. Foreign theatrical should include the usual French-speaking suspects, though this verbose international thriller will play best as genre filler for various TV/VOD outlets.

Based on Marc Fievet’s autobiographical book “L’Aviseur,” the 1987-set account follows the travails of Marc Duval (Lellouche), a Frenchman who lives with his wife (Raphaelle Agogue) and infant daughter on the tiny cape of Gibraltar -- officially a British overseas territory though geographically attached to Spain, and also one of the key junctions for drug and contraband smugglers moving product into Europe.

Riddled with debts that his gloomy bar-restaurant can hardly pay off, Duval makes a deal with an eager customs agent (Rahim) to inform on a few seedy patrons who frequent his establishment, receiving a percentage of the drug busts resulting from his intel. Despite the obvious risks and the fact that his wife is initially against it (“Our life isn’t good enough for you?” she asks, in one of several overblown spousal confrontations), Duval soon becomes the favorite insider of both the French and British, hitching on to bigger and bigger jobs while hoping to make it out unscathed.

Fat chance. Not only is he in over his head from the very first deal, but Duval is clearly incapable of playing things smart, constantly putting his family at risk for a few more Francs he’s not even sure to receive. And while it’s difficult, especially later on, to take the side of such a thickheaded protagonist, Leclercq does manage to make the initial intrigue captivating enough, putting us in the shoes of an innocent man caught in a deadly game, especially when he double-crosses an Irish bandit (Aidan Devine, A History of Violence) who’s even more money-hungry than himself.

But things take a turn for the worse -- both story-wise and cinematically -- when Duval gets too close to a devious Italian kingpin (Riccardo Scamarcio, Romanzo Criminale), again risking the life of his wife and kid, as well as that of a problem child sister (Melanie Bernier) whose promiscuity makes things much worse.

With all these complications, not to mention the endless backhand dealings of the customs officials, the film gets completely bogged down in plot points, forgoing any real suspense for dialogue-heavy scenes where Duval stumbles his way to disaster. And unlike The Assault, The Informant fails to even offer up the kind of hair-raising finale one would expect here, the air practically fizzling out of the balloon during a closing reel that overdoses on facts and finger-pointing without any sustainable action.

Doing what he does best, Lellouche portrays another brooding working-class hero who always acts before he thinks, delivering his lines in a gruff tone that never varies, whatever the situation. Rahim offers some nuance as an agent crushed by his own crooked hierarchy, while Scamarcio aptly plays a cigar-smoking drug lord with a rather hideous collection of 80’s Armani suits.

Tech credits are polished, with regular DP Thierry Pouget washing much of the color out of his widescreen compositions, even if the process is less extreme here than in The Assault. A string-heavy score by Clinton Shorter (2 Guns) is used whenever the drama fails to captivate on its own, which is quite often.

Production companies: Chapter 2, SND, Orange Studio, M6 Films, Transfilm Intl. Inc., Les Films L’Aviseur Inc., Jouror Distribution, Savon Noir, Nexus Factory, uFilm, Cool Industrie

Cast: Gilles Lellouche, Tahar Rahim, Riccardo Scamarcio, Raphaelle Agogue, Melanie Bernier, Philippe Nahon

Director: Julien Leclercq

Screenwriter: Abdel Raouf Dafri, inspired by the book “L’Aviseur” by Marc Fievet

Producer: Dimitri Rassam

Director of photography: Thierry Pouget

Production designer: Jean Philippe Moreaux

Costume designer: Odette Gadoury

Music: Clinton Shorter

Editors: Arthur Tarnowski, Mickael Dumontier

Sales Agent: SND/Orange Studio

No rating, 115 minutes