In Gibraltar, a French bar owner agrees with French Customs to inform on international drug smugglers and quickly gets out of his depth.
Rumble Fish by Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
As the end credits tell us, The Informant is based on real events in the 1980s, though the period the film is set in seems unclear. As is the film itself. Shot in film noir style, it’s more of an insidious dark brown. The interiors are unlit, gloomy so that details and faces are indistinguishable. The central character, Marc Duval, is a down-at-heel Gibraltar bar and yacht owner, vulnerable because he is deeply in debt, who is targeted by an ambitious young French customs investigator to inform on his bar customers in return for a percentage of the drugs hauls subsequently seized. Then, of course, things get more complicated. His involvement is immediately suspected by the smugglers after the first bust and yet at the same time the customs authorities put him under even more pressure to bring in bigger and bigger fish. Through a series of bad decisions in dealings with both criminals and government, in which he is increasingly out of his depth, he becomes cast in the role of top drug smuggler himself and ‘hung out to dry’ by his paymasters.
It could have been gripping. Gibraltar is portrayed as the lawless international nexus of Europe and North Africa, where criminals without borders run their empires in the dark of night. Gilles Lellouche of Tell No One and Little White Lies is a solid centre, a burly, bearded French everyman, streetwise but not too bright, at the mercy of forces bigger than himself, and Tahir Rahim (of The Prophet and The Past) as the sleek young customs investigator, who makes promises he can’t keep, is good but underused, the possibilities of his role not developed.
There is a strange subplot of Duval’s flaky sister (Mélanie Bernier) entering into an incomprehensible live-in relationship with the smooth Mr Big of drug smuggling, the Italian Lanfredi (Riccardo Scamarcio), who Duval finds he must keep in with. There’s a ubiquitous small-time gangster Bobby Sims (Aidan Devine), violent interrogations, executions in Spain, Gibraltar and Tangiers, then the IRA gets involved big time, and the ship loaded with tons of cocaine sales to Montreal, where it all goes (even more) pear shaped. Most of the characters, criminals and civilians, are either stereotypes or not rounded. Duval has a wife (Raphaëlle Agogué) and baby that he tries to protect, but her role doesn’t rise above that of a beautiful worried woman clutching a bundle of baby clothes.
Whilst as a thriller it has its moments of tension and toughness, The Informant is ploddingly and confusingly directed by Julien Leclercq (The Assault, Chrysalis), and is a multilingual muddle – surprisingly so, given that one of the screenwriters is Abdel Raouf Dafri, also of The Prophet. It’s based on the memoir of the real Marc Duval, Mark Fievet, that gave his own, possibly self-serving, version of this Gibraltar Hustle.
The Informant is released on 25th April 2014 in the UK