Kill The Messenger: Movie Review

Attributes: Movie Reviews

Director: Michael Cuesta
Cast: Jeremy Renner (in his first film as a producer), Michael Sheen, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosemarie DeWitt, Paz Vega, Oliver Platt, Richard Schiff, and Michael K. Williams

'Kill the Messenger' is a dutiful but flawed biopic about journalist Gary Webb. It goes through the motions expected of this kind of story, but it is a powerful and engaging film – until a sub-par ending but, it’s zippier and more politically savvy than any number of other fact-based melodramas about stubborn reporters who get caught in the cross hairs of network news videographers and/or government snipers.

In addition, the movie has a highlighted a rather marvellous actor in Jeremy Renner, whose turn as the late CIA antagonist Gary Webb offers the spectacle of a guy who looks nervous in the calmest situations reacting to threats against his livelihood, his career and eventually, his family.

'Kill the Messenger' follows Webb’s incremental uncovering of the CIA’s role in importing cocaine into California’s inner cities in order to fund the 1980s arming of contra rebels in Nicaragua. It also dramatizes the subsequent smear campaign mounted by rival news outlets and conservative corporate interests, presumably acting under government influence, and the ultimate killing of the messenger, Webb, by enemies or by his own hand.

To his credit, Cuesta is interested not only in the darkest side of democracy, but in how Webb’s fiery work impacts his personal life. Webb, whose rebellious and thrill-seeking nature is evident early in his beer swilling, pot smoking, motorcycle riding and Clash record playing, can’t help but file incendiary stories even after sensing that his targets will stop at nothing to retaliate.

Dangerously addicted to praise from his family and colleagues, Webb is a man who’d seemingly rather die than be seen getting pushed around. When big media outlets respond to the small-town reporter’s “Dark Alliance” series by digging up dirt on him and “controversializing” his ideas (while Webb starts seeing figures hiding in the shadows), the film makes its main point — that truth is infinitely malleable by those with the most power.

Renner has the rhythm of Webb’s see-sawing moods down cold, while the movie’s supporting players, including Rosemarie DeWitt as Webb’s wife and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his editor, are excellent at embodying the collateral damage of an investigation their characters support and suffer.

Cuesta devotes screen time to portraying the outrage of African-American activists whose communities were ravaged by the crack cocaine epidemic that spread with the CIA’s substantial assistance. Front page or not, that story deserves a movie of its own.

All-in-all, I give it 3 shors on 5 for Jeremy Runner and my personal love for controversial bio-pics. Cheers.

Tags: Kill The Messenger, Kill The Messenger Movie Review, Hollywood Movie Review, English Movie Review

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