Joe Kinnaman plays an ex-con working inside a drugs gang for the FBI in The Informer.
Based on Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom's Swedish crime novel Three Seconds, and directed by Andrea Di Stefano, The Informer relocates its thrilling tale of double crossing to New York, with Joel Kinnaman taking on the lead role of Pete Koslow, a Polish-American army veteran ex-con dragged into working undercover for the FBI.
Pete, a family man with a partner (Ana de Armas) and daughter, has been pulled from prison and is now working for and informing on a Polish drug gang, keeping his FBI handler Wilcox (Rosamund Pike) happy.
Then, the final drug deal that's supposed to allow him to bring down gangland kingpin 'The General' Klimek (Eugene Lipinski), and gain his freedom, goes wrong, resulting in the shooting of an undercover police officer.
Furious about the disruption he'll face after the death of an officer, Klimek demands Pete break his parole conditions and return to prison to take over its drug racket.
Wilcox tells Koslow that he must go along with the plan and face life on the inside again - away from his daughter and alongside brutal inmates and corrupt prison officers.
The Informer is a thriller in which no one is to be trusted. Even Wilcox, who genuinely wants to help Koslow out of his predicament, is forced to play things false by her ruthless superior, Montgomery (Clive Owen).
Only Grens (Common), a NYPD detective investigating the murder of his colleague in the suspicious drug deal, is a relatively straight arrow - and his fastidiousness risks creating more problems for Koslow, as it makes Montgomery advocate cutting him loose to wash the FBI's hands of any involvement in the crime.
Throughout, the film is gritty, sweaty and brutal. Kinnaman is also perfectly cast as a man leading a double life - convincing as both a father and a gangland tough, battling to keep his identity secret and play the role fate, and the FBI, have assigned to him.
There's also much promise in its early premise, which sets up an intriguing tale of betrayal and counter-betrayal that puts its characters constantly on edge, and consequently the audience too.
Visually, Di Stefano does an admirable job of immersing us in the New York underworld without resorting to the most obvious gore-filled cliches of inferior crime dramas.
However, after admirably setting up a believable crime drama in an intriguing setting, things go awry in its second half - when spectacle and high-octane action is exchanged for realism.
That's not to say there's not enjoyment to be had from its explosive, final act - but that it's just unremarkable - as we've seen undercover cops, secret agents, or criminal anti-heroes save the day, themselves, or vanquish their enemies in fiery, blood-filled, set pieces so many times before.
In its paranoid, character driven first half, The Informer threatens to be far more interesting - with Pete's family life with his partner adding another layer to the drama.
But instead it will merely be a satisfying treat for action fans, rather than the twisting thriller it could have been by continuing to develop and test its characters.
© Cover Media