Review: KILL THE MESSENGER (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 9 October 2014


Jeremy Renner delivers a tense and charismatic performance in KILL THE MESSENGER, an engaging but sometimes pedestrian fact-based drama.

When comes to movie about journalism, it's difficult not to draw comparison with the late Alan J. Pakula's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976). In this latest line of movies about journalism, Michael Cuesta's KILL THE MESSENGER is yet another genre entry that tries to hark back the gritty spirit of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN-like structure where strong acting and solid script rules.


Based on a true story involving the life of Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) who works for San Jose Mercury News as staff writer during the mid-1990s. When a sexy woman named Coral (Paz Vega) calls to meet up somewhere for giving him a grand jury transcript file related to the CIA's shady drug dealing with Nicaraguan Contras, Webb smells a golden opportunity to uncover the conspiracy and writes a hot story that will help boost his career as well as the reputation of the small-time newspaper company he's been working for. After doing some investigation around which eventually leads him to Central America for a crucial interview with imprisoned drug lord Norwin Meneses (Andy Garcia), he has enough information to write a three-part expose called "Dark Alliance". While his effort wins him a journalist of the year award and becomes the media attention, he finds himself stuck in various setbacks that threatened his life, his career as well as his family.

Veteran TV director Michael Cuesta, who is responsible in directing numerous episodes for  acclaimed series such as Six Feet Under, Dexter and Homeland, and screenwriter Peter Landesman does a good job revving up intrigue and suspense just by watching Webb relentlessly pursues the truth about the conspiracy related to CIA and Nicaraguan Contras. For a major bulk during the first half of the movie, it was paced briskly enough to hold your attention.

The movie is also blessed with a top-notch cast. First and foremost of course, is Jeremy Renner, whose rugged charm and trademark acting intensity, is more than enough to earn him a credit as one of the best award-worthy performances to date since 2008's THE HURT LOCKER and 2010's THE TOWN. The rest of the supporting actors are equally captivating as well, including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Webb's editor, Anna Simons; Oliver Platt as his boss, Jerry Ceppos; Rosemarie DeWitt as Webb's wife, Sue; Tim Blake Nelson as attorney Alan Fenster; Paz Vega as Boca; Barry Pepper as federal prosecutor Russel Dodson; Michael Sheen as Washington D.C. National Security Council member Fred Weil; and of course, Andy Garcia in his scene-stealing turn as Norwin Meneses.

The well-acted moment between Renner and Garcia as they interact against each other inside the prison yard for information.

Despite the compelling first half, the movie gradually loses steam especially after the table is turned against Webb as well as his subsequent downfall related to his career in journalism. From there, it looks as if Cuesta and Landesman has lifted their feet off the pedals and let the remainder of the movie moves in a wobbly pace. Not only that, the second half of the movie also suffers from unnecessarily choppy narrative involving Webb's guilt over his past infidelity that affected his wife and his son. Even the decidedly low-key ending brings little impact to the story.


Although KILL THE MESSENGER is spotty in places and may have not possessed the kind of lasting impression it should be, this fact-based drama remains a reasonably ambitious movie worth checking out for.

* This review is written courtesy from GSC press screening * 

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