Film Review: Kill the Messenger



Director: Michael Cuesta
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen

Kill the Messenger is an American crime thriller following the publication of, and aftermath caused by, a 3-part investigative series written for the San Jose Mercury News by journalist Gary Webb. The articles allege that the CIA was involved with the importation of cocaine into the USA, and that the profits were used to support the Nicaraguan Contra rebels. The expose is initially lauded but it doesn’t take long for the mainstream media to turn against Webb (Renner) and, with some help from the CIA, his work is discredited, his family threatened and his career ruined. The strength of the subject matter – a true story – isn’t quite enough to mask the feeling that Cuesta (whose credits unsurprisingly include Homeland and Dexter) was following ‘A Dummies Guide to Crime Films’ during shooting. Archive footage montages, string webs linking together evidence and a hushed meeting on a park bench – it’s all there. You can practically hear eyes rolling around the cinema when The Clash’s ‘Know Your Rights’ soundtracks the films climatic ‘little guy sticking it to the man’ sequence.

Despite slight redemption by what feels like real effort from Jeremy Renner and a solid supporting cast, giving the dark and tangled chain of events such formulaic Hollywod treatment is a total cop out. The story deserves a more complex and original treatment than it receives, and ultimately Kill the Messenger feels resoundingly like a wasted opportunity.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

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