Review in a Hurry: Matt Damon stars as a corporate golden boy who exposes his company's price-fixing conspiracy to the FBI. This odd-but-true tale tries to piece fraud, embezzlement and bipolar disorder into a satirical framework, but like Damon's dopey toupee, the fit is never quite right.
The Bigger Picture: After wading together through Oceans 11–13, Damon and director Steven Soderbergh reteam to navigate the tricky waters of dark comedy. Though a porked-up Damon weighs in with a buoyant performance, the overly convoluted script throws The Informant! off course.
In this adaptation of Scott Burns' book, based on real events, Mark Whitacre (Damon) is a high-ranking exec at agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland. But then Whitacre turns whistleblower, informing the authorities of ADM's involvement in a multinational scam to fix the cost of food additives.
When FBI agents (Scott Bakula, The Soup's own Joel McHale) require evidence of his claims, Whitacre becomes a secret agent of sorts, wearing a wire and conducting meetings in conference rooms rigged with hidden cameras. But as the agents crack the case, they're frustrated to learn that Whitacre has—at best—a loose relationship with ethics and the truth.
The Informant! offers some rewards if you hold on for later reels, but for the first half, its inaccessible plotting—and countless hops around the globe—may leave you scratching your head, glancing at your watch, or focusing on Damon's hefty girth and goofy 'stache.
To the star's credit, his tough-to-crack nut job is entertaining to watch: ambitious, skittish, sweet, totally pathological. And fun to listen to, with random ramblings in voice-over about blotchy skin, polar bears, frequent-flier miles, etc.
Whitacre's mounting lies do become increasingly outrageous, but in straining to spin the events into quirky comedy, the film jabs at your funny bone instead of actually tickling it. Take Marvin Hamlisch's intrusive score (please), which bounces from spy theme to organ music to hoedown and more, as if to plead, laugh now!
For a sharper, funnier portrait of a charming con artist, rent Richard Gere's criminally underseen, The Hoax.
The 180—a Second Opinion: In this post-Ponzi era, it can be quite cathartic to see any slick scammer get their comeuppance.
Avatar and New Moon aren't out this week, but you can sneak a peek in our Movies From the Future gallery.