It seems like every few weeks that we discover something bad that our government is doing to the citizens of the United States. Recently, all those discoveries have revolved around privacy and the government spying on us and other countries, but that’s not all that they have ever done. Everyone remembers the Watergate scandal and there have been some issues like that, but the concept of the government bringing in illegal drugs to raise money for a war is pretty alarming. What else are they doing that we’re unaware of?
Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) is a small-time reporter for San Jose Mercury News and most of his articles end up being fairly rudimentary, as the large news outlets get the bigger stories. Wanting to pursue better and more important stories, Gary begins searching for drug leaders and begins to head down a path that leads to some pretty incriminating stories. Following a lead from a drug lord’s wife (Paz Vega), Gary discovers that the government (the C.I.A.) has been smuggling Crack into the country and selling to support troops in Panema. This has also led to the deterioration of many parts of L.A., only making the story even juicer. Gary is warned by a man named Fred Weil (Michael Sheen), but Gary is persistent, even as C.I.A. operatives begin popping up in his life.
Upon discovering that the drugs are coming from South America, Gary gets information about a man named Norwin Meneses (Andy Garcia), who may or may not be responsible for helping smuggle. After an enlightening trip to South America, Gary has enough information to write a revealing article and at first, it makes him the star of the country and his work has a lot of people frightened. His wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) and oldest son (Lucas Hedges) have his support, but things get rough when the head of the paper (Oliver Platt) learns that people are coming after Gary’s integrity. Rather than the focus being on the story, Gary becomes the center of attention and it’s up to him to validate his sources and confirm the story.
Kill the Messenger is reminiscent of older political thrillers that rely heavily on their exploration of investigative journalism. With that exploration, this film finds intrigue in some otherwise dull moments and manages to excite and intimidate when it needs to. It’s fueled by a masterful performance and some great, yet less involved performances that get us from Point A to Point B in right around two hours. I do feel like there are only a few different ways that political thrillers can go, but despite ultimately knowing what would happen in the end, I did have quite an interesting time with this film.
This film wouldn’t be good without the tremendous effort that Renner puts into his performance. Renner has shown us his seriousness in The Hurt Locker , his fun side in The Avengers, and his more sincere side in American Hustle. Here, Renner is electric, perfectly executing each scene as he goes along his investigations. Renner plays a likable character, but it’s even better that this is a well-written character whom is passionate about his work. Watching him navigate across the country and uncover C.I.A. secrets is riveting, as are the moments of weakness that his character experiences when the media tries to destroy his image. The world of news and secrets is very dangerous and Renner masterfully handles all of the ordeals his character encounters. Were this not such a crowded year for the Best Actor race, I could see Renner receiving a nomination.
This film is sure to draw many comparisons to arguably the best political thriller of all-time, All the President’s Men. While there are many similarities, this uncovering was a one-man-job, performed by a very determined journalist just looking to do real work for once. As we follow Renner’s character all over the U.S. and even into South America, we witness firsthand his dedication to the truth that the people of the U.S. should be aware of. On paper, this film offers up a fantastic story, if entirely true, would have been sure to shake our nation to the core. The paths that this film chooses to follow lead down many frightening roads and it’s almost upsetting that someone my age is just learning about all of this.
Personally, I really enjoyed the sarcastic atmosphere that this film sometimes radiates as Renner’s character’s work comes into question. To him, and the audience, he’s completely sane and everything he uncovered was cold hard fact. To everyone else reading false stories about him and his credibility, he seems insane and much like a big fat liar. Renner handles the questions with sarcasm and it’s quite funny and depressing, because we realize he may not make it out unscathed. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, there were only a few ways that this film could have ended. Despite my general frustration with the effortless government cover-ups, this film definitely telegraphed everything that was going to happen in the end. More than that, this film goes on way too long, especially after it reaches its climax and resolution. Two-hours doesn’t seem like too long, but it definitely felt like you were enduring each minute.
With such a talented cast, it’s hard to imagine that this film wasted a plethora of talent on a bunch of throwaway characters. Michael Sheen plays an interesting character, very similar to Renner’s, but he’s only in the film for a short scene to tell us something we already know. Apparently, Andy Garcia needed to be a South American drug king who doesn’t do too much. Perhaps most confusing of all, is Ray Liota’s character, whom appears out of thin air to explain LITERALLY everything to Renner, but of course he could never use that confession. It happens at the most inopportune time and I couldn’t make any sense of it all. There are also a lot of C.I.A. agents who show up to be intimidating and then they’re just gone? The film really should have focused solely on Renner and the few people around him, but it gets too caught up in trying to throw big names into a smaller film to gain a bigger draw.
Kill the Messenger unearths a riveting story and provides us with one of the best male performances of the year. Jeremy Renner takes the reigns and leads us through this overlong, over-filled film about government corruption and true investigative journalism. There is a really rich, scary story within all of this, but the film deviates from time-to-time and decides to try to fit in some big stars when it can. I did really enjoy the family aspect of this film, as Rosemarie DeWitt and Lucas Hedges do some powerful work with their looks and inflections in their voices. This film isn’t really a tough sell, but I can see why they tried to get a notable cast, to some degree. Political thrillers are very hit or miss and I think that, for the most part, Kill the Messenger is a good time at the movies. If anything, go see Jeremy Renner deliver what’s arguably his best performance to date!
Kill the Messenger Trailer