Gibraltar’s contentious political situation might well be the basis for something darker in Julien Leclercq’s The Informant (2013), an atmospheric if melodramatic French crime thriller from A Prophet (2009) scribe Abdel Raouf Dafri. Only 10% of drug trafficking is supposedly detected in the territory, one of tension between not just Europeans and Africans, but also British, Spanish and French, where, on the shores of the Cote d’Azur, most of the uncharted drugs end up. Gilles Lellouche plays Marc Duval, a French expat running a tavern in 1987 Gibraltar whose money worries lead him to become an informer for the French state on disreputable customers that come in to his bar.
French customs officer Redjani (Tahar Rahim) promises a cut of the drug money from seizures and protection from the state but, of course, they can’t keep Marc – recently made a father – out of harm’s way. As Marc’s lifestyle becomes embroidered in the lives of drug smugglers, the sides of good and bad blur. Rahim warns him at the start to “Never be on one side or the other, that way you wont get snuffed” – which proves to be the abiding statement as Marc’s dumped into trouble time and again by the French authorities. While the film is well produced and delivered with a signature visual style, it all seems a little second rate when compared with recent crime thrillers like 2008’s Mesrine double bill (also scripted by Dafri). Lellouche and A Prophet star Rahim in particular seem to be coasting in their key roles.
Some of Marc’s tight escapes are on the wrong side of contrived, and a relationship between his daughter and drug kingpin Mario (Riccardo Scamarcio) is hard to take. One recurring plot point is French customs agents renege on their promises of cash, and yet Marc keeps agreeing to it (the film flits arbitrarily from Gibraltar to Paris) – surely he would’ve stopped at some point. Director Leclercq occasionally lets The Informant stoop into melodrama, especially in scenes between Marc and his hapless wife Clara (Raphaëlle Agogué), whose role in the proceedings is left too far in the background. However, perhaps this particular offering’s worst fault is that it’s a thriller with so few thrills. Perhaps it’s also attempting to be a heavyweight commentary, which might have worked if an intriguing premise hadn’t been scuppered.