Tag Archives: Nick Stahl

Narco-Lepsy

Confidential Informant

by Daniel Baldwin

Scenario: You’re an ex-soldier turned cop. You are drowning in debt. You have a terminal medical condition that your benefits won’t properly cover. You’re worried that once your sickness claims you, you’ll leave your family destitute. You know that your job pays out handsomely if you are killed in the line of duty. What do you do?

This is the central hook of Confidential Informant, a crime thriller that also happens to be the first Mel Gibson geezer teaser of 2023. Dominic Purcell and Nick Stahl star as two dirty narcotics officers who magically only use corruption to the “benefit” of society and not themselves. They’ll bust down doors without warrants and conjure up whatever they need to make their reports look clean on the surface in an effort to take down the “bad guys”, but never bend the rules to help themselves out. Their boss (Mel Gibson) willingly turns a blind eye to all of it, again with no personal kickback, all for the good of mankind. Yeah, sure.

Purcell’s narco cop is dying, and he needs a way out that will best help his family. He and Stahl concoct a plan with a close friend/confidential informant (Erik Valdez) of theirs to do just that. Things go haywire, and they end up with an internal affairs investigator (Russell Richardson) on their tail. Can the lie be maintained, or will he discover the truth?

We’ve seen more than a few action thrillers tackle benefits issues for soldiers over the past half dozen years. Films like Den of ThievesTriple FrontierWrath of Man, etc. all showcase how poorly we take care of our troops, leading them – at least in these tales – to lives of crime just to pay the bills. To now do the same for corrupt cops is ballsy, especially in today’s political climate. That’s not to say that it cannot be done, as Joe Carnahan’s brilliant Narc accomplished it two decades ago. This is no Narc.

Confidential Informant wastes a good cast (particularly Kate Bosworth in a beyond thankless wife role) on a mess of a script that tries its hardest to be both a neo-noir and a message film but fails at both. The writing simply isn’t up to the task of juggling these two ideas, so the whole thing buckles under the weight of its own ambitions. Stahl does what he can as the lead and Gibson tries his best in what is actually a small supporting role, but it’s not enough to compensate for a weak script and stiff dialogue. This snooze is for die-hards – sorry, lethal weapons – only.

Father Knows Best

What Josiah Saw

by Hope Madden

Just when you think you know where director Vincent Grashaw’s Southern Gothic What Josiah Saw is going, you meet Eli.

One at a time, Grashaw introduces us to the Graham children. At first, it’s poor Tommy (Scott Haze), a simple fella living at home with Graham patriarch, Josiah (Robert Patrick). Josiah doesn’t think much of Tommy. He doesn’t think much of God, either, but he’s having a change of heart.

Then Grashaw switches gears and introduces us to Tommy’s brother Eli (Nick Stahl), who lives hard. He’s run afoul of some bad people (including Jake Weber in a welcome cameo) and is in some pretty desperate straits. Finally, we meet sister Mary (Kelli Garner), whose trauma sits far nearer the surface and strengthens our unease about the inevitable family reunion.

The Grahams reunite, drawn by the lure of oil money: the Devlin corporation hopes to drill on their land. The money could mean a fresh start for everyone. But some details need to be handled first.

Moving from story to story, What Josiah Saw keeps you on your toes. Grashaw glides easily from one style to the next, although Eli’s gritty thriller storyline is the most intriguing. It feels more complete, less bait and switch, and benefits from Stahl’s naturalistic, resigned performance.

Not every episode works as well. The stones left unturned and strings left untied from one tale to the next, though, give the film a rich, dark present-day. From the outset it’s clear there’s a traumatic backstory waiting to be revealed, so it’s to Grashaw and writer Robert Alan Dilts’s credit that the messy present keeps pulling our interest.

Patrick delivers a strong turn, mean-spirited and commanding. He’s at the center of the mystery, the center of everybody’s trauma in a film mainly concerned with how you live with the marks left by your childhood.

Ambiguity in the third act is becoming a theme in horror this year. Alex Garland’s Men, the recent stalker horror Resurrection, and now, What Josiah Saw. Sometimes it’s brave to let the audience own the experience and make the call. More often, it feels indecisive or muddy. I’m not sure all the clues are here to help make the determination for What Josiah Saw, but even without proper closure, Grashaw paints a creepy picture.