Kill The Messenger (SPOILERS)
Cert: 15 / 112 mins / Dir. Michael Cuesta / Trailer
You know that thing where a true-story conspiracy thriller based on events within your lifetime has you thinking "Hmm, I don't remember reading about this?", and then a caption-card points out that much of the conclusion went largely unreported due to a conveniently timed pointless scandal-story? Yeah, that. This is instantly backed up by the thought, of course, that the Trueness™ of the True Story™ itself (concerning the CIA trafficking drugs into a depressed area to fuel unrest and help finance a war in Central America that the CIA can't be officially involved with), must be at best Debatable™, as a) you're only hearing one side of it, and b) you're watching it in a cinema, produced and distributed by Universal Pictures.
This, incidentally, turns out to be the film's achilles heel. Despite the capable and varied casting of its leading and supporting characters, Kill The Messenger feels bigger indeed than a made-for-TV project, but isn't quite cinematic enough to be paying £11 to see, Hawkeye or no Hawkeye.
Utilising the claustrophobic paranoia of 1970s thrillers (despite its 1996 setting), Jeremy Renner is right at home as Gary Webb, the mid-league journalist who stumbles across a story with massive social and media ramifications. Jeremy brings a great balance of principled-everyman and unbearable-smartarse.
In the tradition of look-over-your-shoulder movies, Webb's scenes with the US Government are far more inherently threatening than those spent talking to informants and contacts in South Central Los Angeles or Central American dictatorship-run prisons. The audience essentially spends the film's entire second-act waiting for things to go horribly, horribly wrong. Which they sort of don't, really (the one drawback of the true-story genre).
The narrative itself, if has to be said, is better than the film's script, and anyone who doesn't have an established background in drug-smuggling and arms-dealing is likely to be left a little lost at times (I'm afraid all my limited knowledge comes from Scarface and GTA). Anyone who's not Jeremy Renner (…and sometimes Jeremy Renner) is left garbling exposition to justify their screen-presence, and the depiction of Webb's home-life suffers as a result (the worst casualties being Gary's 'I don't know, just say something child-like?' children).
Bearing in mind that I went in to see Kill The Messenger completely blind (no trailers, reviews or articles), I really rather enjoyed it, and it's clear the film has been made with a lot of committment.
But we also seem to have reached the point where 1996 is considered a Period Setting™ for a film, with all the effort going into recognisable haircuts and set-dressing that's normally required of a film set in the 1950s, 1920s, or Victorian London. How can this be "old"? I was alive/working/drinking/voting when this happened, and I'm still alive/working/drinking/voting now! I'm only young!
* looks in mirror *
WHA?…WHAT THE HELL'S HAPPENED TO MY FACE?
With the best will in the world, it's really a DVD-job.
It's certainly Jeremy Renner in his able/comfort zone.
Oh, the film stars Robert Patrick, who reprised his T-1000 role in The Last Action Hero alongside Art Carney, who of course is most famous for portraying Saul Dann in The Star Wars Holiday Special. BOOM.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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