REVIEW: KILL THE MESSENGER
SYNOPSIS: 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 the nation’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.
Let me start by saying, this flick seems quite heavy and confusing at times, especially in the first half. However, as we delve deeper in this ‘better than fiction’ supposed historical set events, we get to understand how interesting this story-within-a-story, really is.
On the other hand, I can imagine making movies with elements of time loops are somewhat difficult because it takes foresight to arrange it in such a way that audiences can follow; Hence, it is quite understandable why director Michael Cuesta (Dexter – TV series) managed to fail in bringing us this story from the novel (Webb's own "Dark Alliance"), in an interesting theatrical form. In other words, this is essentially a great story told that lacks great storytelling. I would dare to say that it is easy to mistake a good story for good storytelling and conclude that this is a good movie. The strength of this flick is found only in the dense fabric of the story that Journalist Webb brought us and how it focuses directly on the core of the bigger story (Oliver North and The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations). If ever there were a film that could benefit from extensive onscreen footnotes, "Kill the Messenger" is one, yet Cuesta never dwells on the particular strengths and flaws of Webb's journalism.
However, make no mistake, this pseudo-riveting thriller is a Jeremy Renner vehicle, and the two-time Academy Award-nominee (for The Hurt Locker and The Town) delivers another Oscar-quality performance as a family man/respected writer who slowly turned into a paranoid soul haunted by demons and hunted by Machiavellian mercenaries drunk with power. This is certainly his vehicle to recognition once again, in spite of the slow-paced and drawn out sequences of this flick.
While “Kill the Messenger” is unable to be the emotional call to action it aspires to be, it’s nonetheless a remarkable story with solid performances and something to say that’s worth saying. As with “All the Presidents Men” and “Good Night, and Good Luck” before it, “Kill the Messenger “ belongs in the pantheon of truth-in-journalism movies worth remembering. I enjoyed the story immensely, but was on the fence with how the movie played out. Better storytelling could have been applied here; hence, unfortunately I found many of the sequences boring and unsatisfactory. My personal feeling is that this would have made a great documentary-for-the-record, with a strong narrator explaining the historical facts. It’s certainly not worth the spending on the theater visit and would be best served with three out of five stars for being a good story, but poorly told.
By Movi-Man Stan
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