Director: Michael Cuesta (“Homeland”)
Writers: Peter Landesman, based upon the books Dark Alliance, by Gary Webb, and Kill the Messenger, by Nick Schou
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Paz Vega, Michael Kenneth Williams, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Andy Garcia
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Two-time Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner (“The Bourne Legacy”) leads an all-star cast in a dramatic thriller based on the remarkable true story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb. Webb stumbles onto a story which leads to the shady origins of the men who started the crack epidemic on thenation’s streets…and further alleges that the CIA was aware of major dealers who were smuggling cocaine into the U.S., and using the profits to arm rebels fighting in Nicaragua. Despite warnings from drug kingpins and CIA operatives to stop his investigation, Webb keeps digging to uncover a conspiracy with explosive implications. His journey takes him from the prisons of California to the villages of Nicaragua to the highest corridors of power in Washington, D.C. – and draws the kind of attention that threatens not just his career, but his family and his life.
Thank sweet baby Jesus for putting this movie on HBO on demand! I wanted to watching this movie last year back when Paula was able to sit down with star and discuss the film but now HBO has this movie on demand for everyone (with a subscription) to enjoy. the movie follows the controversial tale of reporter Gary Webb and his pursuit of a story in which the United States inadvertently funded the crack/cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s.
Now I wanted to like this movie, I really did, but I couldn’t help but feel that a lot of the acting in Kill The Messenger falls flat. You can’t help but notice lead actor Jeremy Renner try to interject life this movie. I mean he REALLY tries to emote as many of his lines as much as possible, with what he’s given, but it doesn’t fully work due to issues with the actual dialogue. Renner is really believable with his passionate performance but he doesn’t fully steal the show as some of his co-stars are aptly capable of performing on the same level, if not better. I was impressed with some of the faces that I’ve seen in this film as the movie is littered with recognizable faces from TV and film such as Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia, Michael K. Williams and more. It’s comforting to hear and see them portray some important characters in the film no matter how minor a role or how briefly they’re on screen. Overall this movie did a pretty good job with its casting to keep things interesting with its pacing and when they appear.
The two major problems with this movie are that the story and the dialogue. A good example is a scene in which Webb sees an intruder on his property: Webb sees a guy stalking around his car in his driveway. Alarmed he runs in the house, grabs his gun, and walks outside to confront the suspicious guy. This is where things get frustrating as I caught myself talking to the TV and saying “sneak up on that motherfucker, don’t let him know you’re there!” but rather than following my invaluable advice Webb blurts out “HEY! I SEE YOU!”… that’s it. “I SEE YOU, HEY!!!”. Now I am not a suburbanite by any means but that scene made me so angry end exemplified that the writing wasn’t any sharper than a dull blade. There are more scenes that exhibit this tripe, i.e. a scene in which Webb speaks with the C.I.A. in an office, and it kept making me feel awful for this film with a great premise. I wasn’t angry at the movie or the actors but I was disappointed because the film clearly had the potential to do a lot more if it wasn’t held back by its dull dialogue.
Kill the Messenger has a habit of not showing some of the more interesting things about its main character Gary Webb. He has personal issues with his family which are often mentioned but only in passing without fully exploring what they mean or the results. You only learn the results when you analyze the following scenes to ascertain the information that the movie refuses to volunteer. The film itself echoes the problems of the actual plot of the movie which is if we should be concerned about the actual sociological problems created by the act of the U.S. and it’s part in funding the Nicaraguan war or if the movie wants to focus on Gary Webb himself. At certain points within the film I felt compelled to learn more about the impact that this had on the black community and at other times I want to know about Webb’s personal issues but the film doesn’t satisfy with any absolute insight in either. You walk away feeling unfulfilled in either aspect of the story as a result.
A lot of the pacing is pretty good but some scenes are clearly rushed and moved along in order to fit its run-time. In fact, the movie ends with one of those black screens with text just describing how the story of Gary Webb ends which is a little disappointing since as a viewer you can’t help but get somewhat invested in Gary Webb as a character. The premise of the film itself is pretty darn interesting but there’s just too many stumbling blocks for me to confidently recommend this movie to many people and I honestly wanted to like this movie more than I did. It’s not the worst movie I’ve seen in recent memory but good god is it one of the most unsatisfying. It’s not like it was a movie that I would turn off and find something else to watch but I couldn’t help but watch and wait for the movie to get better and find its stride only to watch it stumble to the finish line and tell me not with visual but in text how Gary Webb’s story ends.