New York. 1995. Parts of the city are suffering from a crack epidemic that the NYPD is trying to get under control in Confidential Informant. After a cop is killed, the whole department shifts their focus on trying to hunt down the killer. Two narcotics agents, Moran (Dominic Purcell) and Thorton (Nick Stahl) are leading the charge. Moran and Thorton served overseas in war together and that has bonded them forever. That is part of the reason that Thorton is so floored when Moran tells him he is dying of cancer.
Moran has come up with a plan to make sure his wife Anna (Kate Bosworth) and son are taken care of once he passes. The plan certainly crosses some ethical and procedural lines…to say the least. One of Moran and Thorton’s confidential informants is a junkie who is at the end of his rope. Moran wants to have the informant kill him so he dies in duty and his family receives the death benefits. Thorton objects and worries about internal affairs snooping around. Lt. Hickey (Mel Gibson) has a new IA agent, Learner (Russell Richardson), who is itching to make a name for himself. The last thing Moran and Thorton need is Learner on their tail.
Michael Oblowitz directed the film and was part of the three-person writing committee. Alongside Oblowitz was Brooke Nasser and Michael Kaycheck, who appeared in the film. Oblowitz has a history of writing the movies he directs, and Confidential Informant is no exception. However, this is the feature length debut for Nasser and Kaycheck. It seemed that Oblowitz and co. wanted to tell a story of camaraderie that resonated and left a lasting mark. Instead, the story becomes muddled and full of cliches seen time and time again.
One of the clear focuses of the creative team was to hammer home the noir style throughout the film. The camera angels are there, strange and captivating. We have clashes of muted sets with one bright article of clothing to focus on, a la Sin City. Can’t forget about the dark and brooding narration – with different characters taking a stab at it. They had a noir checklist and went down one by one.
While so much focus went to the stylistic elements, the rest of the film rings hollow. The script and performances leave a lot to be desired. Some characters are incredibly difficult to even understand – both their motivations and their dialogue. There are a handful of head scratching moments. Maybe most egregious of all, Confidential Informant features some of the worst aim seen outside of a storm trooper’s outfit. The film is entirely character driven, but the character development isn’t there to really make the audience connect. The star of the show may possibly be the absurdly large fan on Hickey’s desk. Confidential Informant simply doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself or make it worth a watch.