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The Lying Game 

Corporate crime doesn't pay in Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!

A pudgy guy with a bad hairpiece and a dated moustache, Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) has worked his way up the corporate ladder at a multi-million dollar agribusiness company in Decatur, Illinois. An Ivy League PhD., he's vice-president at one of the biggest Fortune 500 companies in the world. He has his own office and his own secretary. He's built up so many frequent flyer miles that he maintains platinum status with the airlines. But he's told more than one lie along the way. For years, he's claimed that his parents died in a car crash when he was 6 and a wealthy Ohio family adopted him and set him straight. But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fabrications he's spun.

When the FBI starts investigating his company's business practices, Mark turns whistleblower and begins wearing a wiretap to meetings where price-fixing agreements are made with competing companies. The FBI gathers hundreds of hours of tapes and raids the offices for even more evidence. The case, however, goes bust when it turns out that Mark has been bilking millions of dollars from the firm while he was helping out the FBI. Agents Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) and Bob Herndon (Joel McHale) can't believe he would commit such crimes while trying to bring his superiors to justice, but they soon realize the guy is bipolar and doesn't have a solid grasp on reality.

Based on a true story, Steven Soderbergh's film isn't just an exercise in '90s nostalgia, though it does offer an array of bad suits and cumbersome cell phones. It's also a chance for the Ocean's 11 director to use jet-setting for a completely different purpose since we see Mark stay at cheap hotels and eat at dingy diners across the globe. Traipsing from the midwest to Tokyo and back, the film changes scenery frequently but never loses momentum. Damon perfectly embodies the film's well-educated anti-hero, simultaneously inspiring pathos and disdain, especially when he tells lies to get himself out of the lies he's already told. Like a cross between Fargo and Catch Me If You Can, The Informant! is a rich case study worth seeing a second time.

jniesel@clevescene.com

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