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Friday, July 23, 2010

THE INFORMANT! (2009)

Helmer Steven Soderbergh outsmarts himself in this fact-inspired tale about a whistle-blowing food biz exec. On the one hand, the basic ingredients -- international price-fixing, FBI investigation, blundering insider amateur spy -- are loaded with dramatic & comic possibilities; on the other hand, he distances himself & us from this quintessential 1990s tale of capitalistic greed by kidding the whole sordid affair with the look, sounds & feel of a groovy 1970s pic from a studio hack like Jack Smight. It’s even got the Smothers Brothers! The disconnect in tone is fatal. (At least, Marvin Hamlisch’s score is ‘in’ on the joke.) Matt Damon put on thirty pounds (and took off about four inches?) to play the company man who gets squeezed between good business practices & bad business ethics. While at the same time hiding more secrets, lies & cash than a femme fatale in a film noir. The rest of the cast plays it straight, so if you squint you can imagine how this might have fared with Jack Lemmon & Shirley MacLaine working under Billy Wilder & a script by Ben Hecht; or even in the unintentional parody mode of Jack Webb’s DRAGNET. (Just the facts, Mr. Damon, please!, just the facts!)

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