Michael Cuesta’s “Kill the Messenger” plays like an “All the President’s Men” for an era of the lone eagle rather than the journalistic tag team. Jeremy Renner stars as muckraking journalist Gary Webb, a reporter who uncovers a 1980s CIA conspiracy that use the smuggling of crack cocaine into the U.S. as a front to launder weapons into Central America. In essence, poor American communities are collateral damage to freedom fighting operations.
The first half features him uncovering the story, and the second half follows the fallout after publication. Unlike Woodward and Bernstein, who had the backing of the Washington Post, Webb just wrote for a small outlet out of San Jose that lacked the resources or the confidence to stand with the controversial piece. The CIA, of course, sought to discredit the story, and archival footage shows how the mainstream media ran with their smear campaign.
Renner is potent and forceful as the leading man of the film, clinging to his ethics and pride when all else around him seems to fail. “Kill the Messenger” thrives because of his righteous anger. His work also receives bolstering from a tremendous supporting cast with solid turns from character actors like Rosemarie DeWitt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Platt, and Michael Kenneth Williams.
I can scarcely think of a critique for “Kill the Messenger,” except maybe the fact that it lacks an X-factor to take it from very good to great. Still, Cuesta turns Peter Landesman’s tightly wound script into an entertaining, enthralling watch. I can’t complain about that at all. B+ /