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Movie Review – “Kill the Messenger”

TwitReview: Jeremy Renner stars in Kill the Messenger. The real-life story about journalist Gary Webb who’s articles in 1996 revealed the hidden truth about the CIA controlled drug trafficking taking place in the United States.  Grade: B-



Kill the Messenger is a thriller taking place between 1996 to 1997 and chronicles two years of the life of  of journalist Gary Webb and how his life changed after writing the series “Dark Alliances” for the San Jose Mercury News.  Jeremy Renner plays Webb who’s article Dark Alliances revealed a link between the CIA and the drug wars of the 80’s. This article was revered by many, including the paper he worked for, until the CIA, the Washington Post, and the LA Times all managed to poke holes into the story. This caused the SJMN to publish a letter days later stating that the story may have had some holes and embellishment. CIA espionage, drug war, Iran-Contra war, 1st Amendment, and the story of a man who dared to tell the truth.

What worked:

  • Michael Cuesta directs a movie that keeps your attention and makes you really think. The pace of the movie is fast for a two-hour film. There is a lot of Webb’s life to get through for a two year period and he does it in a way that captures the era.
  • Did the United States Government really do what Webb alleges? This story was a big story in 1996 and the nightly news didn’t know what to do with this story. The allegations of misconduct brought on by Webb was something that no one was ready to read about.
  • Webb’s interaction with his family showed that this guy was career oriented but loved his family too. He wasn’t a perfect man, he had issues but at the end of the day he did what he did for his wife and their three kids. The interaction felt real between Webb and his wife Sue (Rosemarie DeWitt) as they fought about their lives together and his telling of this story.
  • Things took a twist when Webb had to leave Sacramento and move to Cupertino when his boss Jerry (Oliver Platt) reassigned him based on the fallout from the article.

What didn’t work:

  • For the cast that is in the movie, most are on-screen for a short period of time. If you blink, you’ll miss:
    • Robert Patrick as a drug dealer who has had his property taken by the US Government and even though he was never convicted, the property was never returned.
    • Rich Kline as LA Times journalist Josh Close.
    • Barry Pepper as US Attorney Russell Dodson.
    • Tim Blake Nelson as lawyer Alan Fenster.
    • Andy Garcia as Norwin Meneses, a drug kingpin who is on trial for selling drugs.
    • Ray Liotta – as former CIA agent John Cullen.

My Final Thoughts:

Kill the Messenger is the story of a man daring to tell the truth and getting killed for it. Script writer Peter Landesman manages to convey the themes from  Webb’s Dark Alliance (the novel based off of his findings and and original articles) and Nick Schou’s Kill the Messenger (the story about Webb’s life).

Kill the Messenger is Rated R with a run time of 112 minutes.

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