In old Hollywood movies, bad behavior couldn’t be rewarded. It had to be punished — as it was with all those ’30s Warners Bros. gangsters who got it in the end. Bret Easton Ellis, the blasé bard of hard-living synth-pop decadence, employs the same basic morality, except that he’s far stricter about it: His characters — wealthy, beautiful, drugged, and empty of soul — suffer while they’re getting their kicks. The Informers, based on Ellis’ 1994 novel, promises a welcome rush of depravity, but it’s by far the most slack, ho-hum movie ever made from Ellis’ material. (I recommend seeking out the underrated 2002 adaptation of The Rules of Attraction instead.)
Here’s the plot, which is set in Los Angeles in 1983: Graham (Jon Foster), a boringly tall-and-WASPy drug dealer, is in love with a beautiful thrill-seeker with fake breasts, who is also sleeping with Graham’s Flock of Seagulls-coiffed bisexual-gigolo friend, who’s involved with the ex-wife of a famous junkie British rock star, who likes underage boys and girls (preferably at the same time), and who zones out on stage in the middle of a concert, though no one in the audience even notices. Mickey Rourke, very much in pre-comeback mode, plays some sort of greasy kidnapper, Winona Ryder is a newscaster who dresses like a librarian, Billy Bob Thornton (looking thin and notably joyless) is a Hollywood mogul, and Chris Isaak is a middle-aged dirtbag who goes on vacation in Hawaii with his son (Lou Taylor Pucci), who loathes him. Hiply. Then one of these folks ODs on a beach. The end.
In Ellis’ books, the characters do all this stuff because they’re empty inside. But in The Informers, at least as Gregor Jordan (Buffalo Soldiers) has directed it, that same formula gets flipped: The characters are empty inside because they do all this stuff. And receive no pleasure from it. There were vampires, real ones, in Ellis’ novel, but you can see why the movie didn’t need them. Everyone on screen looks like they’ve already been sucked dry. D+