THE INFORMER. Warner Brothers (UK), 2019. Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Common, Clive Owen, Ana de Armas, Eugene Lipinski. Based on the novel Tre sekunder (Three Seconds) by Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström. Directed by Andrea Di Stefano. Currently streaming on Netflix.

   This is a bleak one. There’s not much levity or humor in The Informer. Rather, it’s a grim, brutal, and downbeat thriller about corrupt men and even crueler men. Based upon the Swedish crime novel Tre sekunder (2009), The Informer is at once neo-noir cinema, a police procedural, and a gangster film. Set in the gritty streets of New York, the movie doesn’t necessarily break any new ground. But it does provide – given you’re in the right frame of mind for such a depressing feature – mild escapism and momentary thrills.

   Swedish-American actor Joel Kinnaman portrays Peter (Piotr) Koslow, a Polish-American veteran who is now working as an informant for the FBI. In an off-the-book operation, FBI agents Keith Montgomery (Clive Owen) and Erica Wilcox (Rosamund Pike) have arranged for Koslow’s early release from state prison on a murder charge. In exchange, he must infiltrate a Polish drug dealing crime syndicate and inform on them. The FBI’s ultimate target: a seedy Polish fentantyl dealer known as The General.

   In typical noir fashion, everything goes wrong for Peter. And from there, it only gets worse. Not only is he present when one of the Polish gangsters kills a NYPD organized crime cop, he also is cut loose by the FBI and left to fend for himself. Fortunately, a NYPD detective (Common) comes to learn that the feds aren’t exactly playing by the rules and makes a commitment to protect Peter’s wife and daughter.

   Except for the final half hour of the film which feels oddly disjointed, the majority of The Informer runs smoothly and at an even clip. The film – refreshingly, I should emphasize – never tries to do more than necessary to make the narrative move forward. There are no attempts to be unduly clever, witty, or self-referential.

   As far as I can tell, The Informer – despite a solid cast – went relatively unnoticed by filmgoers. It’s not hard to figure out why. There’s definitely a limited appeal and audience for such downbeat crime films. There’s no razzle dazzle, buddy comedy, or dark humor here. Just a character story of a man who gets in over his head and then some. The closest point of comparison that I could think of is 21 Bridges (2019), also a New York crime film that had nary a happy moment.