“Kill the Messenger” Poignant and Provocative (Film Review)



Sometimes you just want to scream when you witness an appalling injustice. Point of statement, the subject of the true story Kill the Messenger. The movie takes you on a trail that opens old wounds about the American CIA and the tactics used for a means to an end. Very good performances all around, direction impeccable and a bold script make this political thriller a winner.

The film opens in the 1990’s and centers on San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) who gets a lead on a story from whistle blower Coral Baca (Paz Vega). She’s the girlfriend of convicted drug kingpin “Freeway” Rick Ross (Michael K. Williams) who has made millions selling crack cocaine in the low income area of South Central Los Angeles. The 1980’s document she gives Webb, a Grand Jury transcript, shows involvement between the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Central American cocaine trafficking.

Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner)  works on his story

Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) works on his story

The lead takes Webb on a journey that exposes the U.S. Government’s involvement in smuggling cocaine into the United States to dealers who pass on the profits from sales to purchase guns for the Contras, a militia fighting a civil war in Nicaragua. He follows a very dangerous path to obtain all the facts, but succeeds in spite of all the government road blocks. It’s what follows the release of his story in the San Jose Mercury News however, that turns his life into a living hell.

Gary Webb (Renner) stands outside a courtroom with Coral Baca ( Paz Vega)

Gary Webb (Renner) stands outside a courtroom with Coral Baca ( Paz Vega)

The film goes on to show Webb’s struggle, his family’s support, dealing with his editor and threats against him. Director Michael Cuesta (Homeland) holds nothing back in showing the government’s involvement in the illegal dealings, the press’s intimidation of Webb and the results of a long arduous journey. His film is intriguing and aggressive showing reminiscence of All the President’s Men with a little mind flash or two of The Insider.

Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Town) gives another captivating and exciting performance that should get notice by the Oscar pundits. He builds Webb from an average daily newspaper reporter into a confident journalist who’s determined to solve a crime that’s so far reaching and intricate it can only end in disaster. He makes his character unwavering and resolute, not backing off from any government agency or crime lord until his story has an ending. It’s no simple task, but director Cuesta makes it a lot easier with his stacked pack of support players.

executive editor Jerry Ceppos (Okiver Platt), with editor Anna Simons (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) with Gary Webb (Renner)

executive editor Jerry Ceppos (Okiver Platt), with editor Anna Simons (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) with Gary Webb (Renner)

Speaking of support players, Oliver Platt turns in a credible “two faced” character Jerry Ceppos Executive Editor of the San Jose Mercury News. After being presented with the biggest scoop of a lifetime for his newspaper, he can see a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. He’s cautious of the fact that their publication is small potatoes and the story will step on powerhouses like the LA Times and New York Times. Webb assures him that his story will go worldwide and he shouldn’t back down when press time arrives. When the big newspaper powers question Webb’s sources, hanging him out to dry, Ceppos starts to consider retraction and apology.

Director Michael Cuesta on the set of Kill the Messenger

Director Michael Cuesta on the set of Kill the Messenger

Kill the Messenger has been rated R by the MPAA for language and drug content. Although it’s billed as a true story, there are scenes of embellishment that keep the intrigue at a high level.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Stellar performances and presentation of this compelling story make the film a must see. (B+)

Additional Film Information:
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
Directed by: Michael Cuesta (Homeland)
Genre: Biography, Drama, Political Thriller
MPAA Rating: R for language and drug content
Running Time: 1 hr 52 min
Release Date: October 10, 2014
Distributed by: Focus Features
Release Formats: 2D

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress