johnlink ranks KILL THE MESSENGER (2014)

The true-story news movie has a long and prestigious place in the annals of movie history. While KILL THE MESSENGER may not have the immediate impact of ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN or THE INSIDER, the story is a powerful one which is undertold. I knew nothing about this film going in, but I’m glad I notched it on the belt.


I watched KILL THE MESSENGER (2014) on 10.6.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) is a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaperman working for the small-market San Jose Mercury News in the mid 1990s. He’s well liked, well received, but not famously known. He is a talented guy working in what is, probably, a market slightly too small for him. It was his own marital issues that pushed him out of Cleveland, as he and his wife Sue (Rosemarie DeWitt) have relocated on the left coast in order to get a fresh start away from their previous friends and their families.

Webb stumbles onto a huge story which points to the possibility that the CIA – during the Reagan era – knowingly allowed Nicaraguans to work drugs into the US and that the money made in crack sales helped fund the Nicaraguan War. This story, obviously, is not one the CIA wants told. So Webb finds himself being followed, threatened, and thwarted at every turn as he attempts to gather information and tell the story.

Half way through the film, roughly, the story is printed with the backing of his newspaper. Quickly, though, the larger papers in the country – perhaps spurned by jealousy since they did not get the scoop themselves – went after Webb and his lack of named sources while trusting the narrative of the CIA as they worked hard to kill the story.

This is a movie about Webb’s transition from an earnest and confident reporter to a pariah within his own industry. He becomes more fragile as the film goes on, and Renner does a really fine job of letting us into the world of a man losing his grip. Webb’s story is not a happy one, and the validation of his work happened only after his reputation had fully been decimated. But Renner brings moments of grace to the part.

This is a solid movie, even if it feels like the film shades us from some of Webb’s darker corners in order to make him more likable. It is an understandable decision, but one which makes this feel less vital. The family drama is important, but the details of the conspiracy theory should make our jaw drop. There are a couple of moments which do, especially when Andy Garcia shows up for a single seen as a former drug dealer in a South American prison and later when we see the depths the CIA would go to in order to hide the truth. But, for the most part, this is a movie which merely hits the notes we would expect it to hit. Those are not sour notes, not by any means, but this is not a movie which will shake you to your core.

So I liked KILL THE MESSENGER. Webb’s story is an important one to know, and the movie is very watchable. It leaves something on the table, to be sure, but it is not a disappointment by any means.




FINAL SCORE: 6.5 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on October 7, 2015.

4 Responses to “johnlink ranks KILL THE MESSENGER (2014)”

  1. For some reason, I liked this movie a lot more than other people. However, I think that may just have to do with the fact that I too am a journalist and this movie was definitely made with my heart in mind. Nice review.

  2. I really liked this film as well. I’m actually surprised it did not get a wider release in theaters. I found this story intriguing and have read a little more on it via the web since viewing.

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