Film Review: 'The Informant'

★★☆☆☆
Not to be confused with Steven Soderbergh's comic caper of the same name starring a moustachioed Matt Damon, Julien Leclercq's The Informant (2013) is a thriller based on an autobiographical novel by Marc Fievet. In this instance, it's a title that seems a little less unique than the French original - Gibraltar - but arguably one more fitting. The prospect was of a smuggling yarn made ever more enticing by a handful of engaging leads including Gilles Lellouche and Tahar Rahim. Regrettably, however, hough Leclercq's customs thriller begins well, it never manages to get its engine going, its solid performances unable to inject some much-needed dynamism into the bland proceedings.

The aforementioned Lellouche stars as Marc Duval, a struggling bar owner looking to make his way in Gibraltar in the late 1980s. He's approached by a French customs officer, Redjani Belimane (A Prophet's Rahim), who offers him remuneration for any reliable information Duval can glean from his disreputable clientèle with regards to ongoing smuggling operations. Despite the disapproval of his long-suffering wife, Marc accepts the offer and and a tip-off provides the key to a significant collar. Soon, however, the web of intrigue has extended with the complex political machinations of various international customs authorities and drug-dealing gangsters all becoming concerns. The dangerous Claudio (Riccardo Scamarcio), meanwhile, proves a particular furrow in Duval's well-worn brow.

Lellouche does admirably as the everyman embroiled in a convoluted plot, sinking even deeper into the mire when he uses his own boat to smuggle as part of an elaborate sting. Given his worsening situation, some decisions seem like utter madness, but he convinces with his roughly-hewn graft and desire to provide financial security for his family. Scamarcio is equally at home as the threatening criminal, but otherwise none of the characters prove particularly appealing. The two female roles, Marc's wife Clara (Raphaëlle Agogué) and sister Cécile (Mélanie Bernier), are wafer-thin plot devices and even Rahim can pique little interest as the insipid Balimane. As the mystery thickens and the situation becomes more perilous, the life sputters out of The Informant almost entirely.

The potential of the set-up is further squandered as Abdel Raouf Dafri's screenplay (presumably in remaining faithful to the real life scenario) lacks the dramatic conclusion promised by its premise and its genre. The third act sees any previously created tension diffused, whilst the denouement leaves much to be desired, prompting the question of why dramatic license wasn't employed on this much-needed occasion. The problem is further exacerbated by unspectacular direction and visuals that should see The Informant slip forgotten into the crowd - along with its nondescript title.

Ben Nicholson

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