‘Confidential Informant’ (2023) Ending, Explained: Does Mike End Up In Prison?

Directed by Michael Oblowitz, Confidential Informant is part buddy cop drama and part crime thriller that works fine despite its superficial narrative. Having a cast that includes the likes of Mel Gibson doesn’t hurt, and the film manages to keep the viewers engaged in patches, if not throughout its entire runtime. The plot of Confidential Informant revolves around two war veterans, Tom Moran and Mike Thornton, who, after their stint in the Gulf War, come to work in the narcotics department of the NYPD. Their leader is the experienced Kevin Hickey, who knows what it’s like to return to civilian life after the war. After Tom discovers he has cancer and his time is limited, he asks his partner Mike to help him with a deadly plan that will help his family survive after he is gone.

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Spoilers Ahead


Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Confidential Informant’?

Tom Moran and Mike Thornton were in the Gulf War together. Tom saved Mike’s life in the war, and since then, he has been indebted to him. The bond between them is unbreakable. This fact about their partnership is understood only by one man in the department, Kevin Hickey. Kevin is their superior, and he once served in the Vietnam War. He understands the psyche of men who have been through grueling conditions and are expected to rejoin society. The year is 1995, and Mike and Tom are after a cop killer simply known as Chayo. Helping the two cops in this pursuit is their confidential informant (CI), Carlos. He delivers the crucial information, and the benefit of having a CI is that they can find loopholes through the red tape to get to the criminals quicker. Once, using Carlos’s tip, they busted a drug dealer’s operation and only realized later that they were witnesses to the murder committed by Chayo. If it weren’t for Hickey, Tom, and Mike would be in trouble for not following the protocol necessary for making the arrests related to Chayo’s case. The fact that CI’s information need not be revealed to anybody makes Tom and Mike a little reckless, and circumstances make them tread a morally gray path.

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Tom learns that he has stomach cancer and won’t survive long. Being a family man, he wanted to provide for his family, but with deadly cancer, he knew that he would be leaving his family with nothing if he didn’t do something soon. The only one he can turn to is his partner and friend, Mike. When Tom hears the benefits offered to the family of a cop who dies in the line of duty, he starts to concoct a shady plan. Soon, Carlos reveals that he has AIDS, and Tom pounces on the opportunity to make sure his family doesn’t want for anything after he is gone.


What Was The Plan?

Carlos, revealing that he has AIDS, makes Tom reveal the news of his cancer to Mike. Despite the fact that nobody knew about the CI and no one would ever suspect them, Tom shares his plan with Mike. The plan was to make a deal with Carlos to shoot Tom dead and then commit suicide, while Mike would be left to tell the story of Tom’s heroics and how he died in the line of duty after a crazed drug addict shot him. As nobody was aware of Carlos’s identity as a CI, Mike could make him look like just another drug dealer who killed Tom to avoid getting caught. Why would Carlos be interested in doing Tom a favor by participating in this suicidal plan? Due to the fact that he, too, was dying and had a family, he wanted to leave them with a substantial amount of money so that they could look after themselves. If he was to participate in Tom’s plan, Carlos first needed them to deliver the money to his family.

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Mike isn’t on board with Tom’s plan. It’s not that he was scared of going against the law; he simply did not want to lose his friend. When pressured by Tom, Mike remembered that he was indebted to him. Tom had saved Mike’s life in the war, after all. Mike has moments of doubt and hesitation, but in the end, he goes back to his philosophy: small bad deeds that help the greater good are not wrong at the end of the day. Tom and Mike, before executing their own plan, had to make sure they had the money that was to be given to Carlos’ family. To solve this problem, they use Carlos’ tip for a huge amount of cash that was stashed in a drug dealer’s house. They use masks and rob the drug dealer of his money. Learner, an agent of the Internal Affairs Bureau, starts an investigation when he senses that the dealer was robbed by cops who were masquerading as robbers. Meanwhile, Tom’s plan to die in the line of duty goes partially wrong, and he lands Mike in a world of trouble.


How Did The Plan Go Wrong?

Now that Tom and Mike had the money, they could go ahead with the plan. So, they call Carlos, who is snorting drugs as if there is no tomorrow. He wasn’t in a mental space where he could go through with the plan. When Tom came to check up on him, which is when he was supposed to shoot him, he panicked, and Tom realized that things could go sideways. Ultimately, Carlos does shoot Tom, but when it comes to shooting himself and committing suicide, he just can’t do it. Instead, he starts shooting at Mike when he senses that he would shoot him down. Mike has no other option but to shoot him back. If Carlos went away, he could reveal to the others his status as the CI, and Mike would go to prison. But Mike didn’t actually kill Carlos because he was afraid of going to jail. He simply did it out of self-defense because Carlos had started to shoot back.

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Did Tom’s Sacrifice Go To Waste? Does Mike End Up In Prison?

If Carlos had just shot himself on the spot, there would have been absolutely no trouble for Mike to stage the scene and make it look like Tom died in the line of duty. But now it was a little bit tricky. On the one hand, Learner was investigating the robbery case, and now suddenly, one of the two cops died in a strange shooting at the hands of a friend. A lot of questions start to pop up. Kevin Hickey is the only man in the department who keeps deterring Learner from making the accusations against Mike and Late Tom. Learner goes to extreme lengths to get the files of the confidential informants working with Tom and Mike, and he figures out that Carlos is indeed a CI. Fraternizing with CIs meant Mike had to face suspension, and Tom’s sacrifice was about to go in vain. There was a strong possibility that Learner would eventually discover that the Carlos case was a total fabrication  designed to get the insurance benefits from the department. 

Mike does the best he can to not let any information slip that would make Learner accuse him of foul play in the Carlos case. Even if he were a CI, Mike maintains that he shot at Tom out of fear and not out of a deal made prior to the shooting. Hickey keeps siding with Mike, and Learner confronts him about his behavior. About to go full throttle on the investigation, Learner gives Mike a last chance to come clean. Fed up with the accusations and Learner’s idealistic sensibility, he gives him an earful about how his investigation will make Tom’s sacrifice that he had made for his family go to waste. Learner has a word with Hickey and realizes he knew about Tom and Mike’s involvement in the shady plan all along. Hickey makes Learner understand that what they did might not have been legal but sometimes the greater good defies the binary sense of right and wrong; they were just looking out for each other and each other’s families. Learner drops the investigation after he grasps the morally gray path Tom and Mike were treading. Mike returns to duty with full honor and resumes his case against Chayo, who was caught before Mike got suspended.

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Why didn’t Hickey do something if he was aware of the plan? In the end, Mike has an informal chat with Hickey, and the two war veterans look back at the lives they have lived after their returns from their respective wars. Hickey, too, had a partner in the war, just like Mike had Tom. He understood the pain Mike was in, which was why he supported his indiscretions. Hickey understood why Tom had to go through with his plan because the department had the reputation of abandoning its officers when they were in trouble after retiring. With the cancer, Tom had to leave his family with the money, which he managed successfully, even though posthumously. Mike, who was living life as an alcoholic, decides to live a clean life and look after Tom’s family so that his son won’t grow up without the presence of a father figure. It was the least he could do to honor his friend’s sacrifice.


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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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