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"The Informant!"

Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Written by Scott Z. Burns.  Based on the book by Kurt Eichenwald.
Starring Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Bakula and Joel McHale.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  10/9/09


"The Informant!" gets almost all of its mileage in two places: an inspired loser-like performance by Matt Damon in the lead role of real-life whistleblower Mark Whitacre, and a ridiculous amount of lies spewed by Whitacre that make his every move that much more insane.

It's not the look/sound of the film, or the supporting performances, or even really the plot by the FBI and Whitacre to expose his company in a price-fixing scandal in the, this really is basically a one-man show and Whitacre's dependence on his own made-up backstory make the film very, very watchable and at times really funny.

At one point, we basically watch Whitacre drive home in what might be a Ferrari, lie to his wife, lie to the FBI, lie to a business partner, then lie to his two bosses at the firm that he is attempting to take over all by himself after lying about a virus in the makeup of the corn starch his company makes.  And, that's only in the first 20 minutes of the movie!  I don't know if a character's lies--EVEN WHEN WE SEE THEM COMING!--have ever made an entire movie successful, so if anything, "The Informant!" can lay claim to that one, for sure.

This also lends the film some drama late in the film, as Whitacre begins to have some sense of what his lying really is doing to those who had originally tried to look out for him in the first place, most notably the lead FBI agent (Scott Bakula) working on the wiretapping of Whitacre's work superiors.  Even Mark's wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey) begins to wear down eventually and the lies are allowed to be shown in a light that moves away from comedy in the final ten minutes of the film.

Damon, with an extra 20 or 30-odd pounds on him, is great.  I kept thinking of how different this look is over his Jason Bourne films; the pudge gives him an added edge of vulnerability but the look is never really exploited, say in a scene where Whitacre is eating at a buffet or getting dressed at home by trying to squeeze into his size 42 pants.  Doesn't matter...the acting work here is money anyway.  The rest of the cast seems to have been cast to not be famous in any way, to not take away from Damon...this is a good idea, since the other cast members didn't have much to add in terms of script anyway.

While not great, "The Informant!" is very entertaining and worthy of your hard-earned dough even at night.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 10/09/09