"Look, man - I am not Mitch Hedberg although I do enjoy his jokes!" Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner, left, in tie and jeans) discusses the biggest story of his career with his executive editor Jerry Ceppos (Oliver Platt) and editor Anna Simons (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in a scene from the based-on-a-true-story tale of truth and lies KILL THE MESSENGER. Chuck Zlotnick © Focus Features


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Jeremy Renner, Rosemary DeWitt, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael Carter Williams, Andy Garcia, Michael Sheen, Lucas Hedges, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Platt, Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Robert Patrick, Josh Close and Paz Vega

WRITER(S): Peter Landesman (screenplay); Gary Webb (book, Dark Alliance) and Nick Schou (book, Kill The Messenger)

DIRECTOR(S): Michael Cuesta


60 SECOND PLOT SYNOPSIS (OR AS CLOSE TO IT AS ONE CAN TRY TO MAKE): Based on the true events that led to the rise and demise of a journalist's career, Kill The Messenger stars Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb, a respected but then-unknown reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. Living happily with his wife Sue (Rosemary DeWitt), his oldest son Ian (Lucas Hedges) and his other two children (Matthew Lintz and Parker Douglass), Gary is a happy guy by all accounts, even though he knows he is capable of something more.

Then one of his stories draws the attention of Coral Baca (Paz Vega), the alluring girlfriend of a drug dealer going preparing to stand trial for his alleged crimes. What Webb doesn't count on is Baca handing him a grand jury testimony with the biggest potential news story of his career: The CIA may not just have been knowledgeable about Central American cocaine smuggling into the U.S., but somehow actively involved/letting it happen purposefully. Jumping on the lead of the mind-boggling tale, Webb ends up shadowing attorney Alan Fenster (Tim Blake Nelson) and his client, famed (in hip-hop lore anyway) drug dealer Ricky Ross (Michael Carter Williams). What he uncovers in his international travels becomes the hottest story not only of Webb's career, but the hottest story in the country, much to the delight of Webb, his editor Anna Simons (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and the Mercury News' executive editor Jerry Ceppos (Oliver Platt).

Unfortunately for Webb, this is just the beginning of what will turn out to be not only the biggest story of his career, but the one that will define him and his legacy in ways he never expected.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST?: Conspiracy theorists, news junkies, history buffs, political talking heads, anti-government protestors, those who remember the impact of the proliferant nature of crack cocaine in America's urban inner cities in the 1980s, Jeremy Renner fans

WHO WON'T – OR SHOULDN'T – LIKE THIS FILM?: Many Ronald Reagan fans, anti-conspiracy supporters, those who do not like thinking about the government doing anything immoral/illegal/illicit or any other negative word beginning in "I;" those who cannot believe the events happened without their recollection

FINAL VERDICT – IS IT GOOD, GREAT, BAD OR DOWNRIGHT AWFUL? On an artistic level in terms of performance and execution, Kill The Messenger is an excellent film as it is tense, suspenseful, dramatic and stars an actor (Renner) who is able to draw you into the life of a man you never knew and make it riveting.

As Webb, Renner isn't bombastic as much as he is dedicated to his craft. He's not a self-promoting talking head seeking a big break as much as he is seeking the truth ... And if he is anything, he's a tragic figure who is effectively erased – until now. You see how he continues to dig deeper and deeper even though all signs point to disaster ... But Renner makes it captivating under the direction of director Michael Cuesta, watching everything he has worked for become turned upside down and inside out. While his personal problems bubble to the surface, everything comes to a head because of something that no one in the world, let alone his position, would likely know how to handle: Being the only person who believes your story.

That, of course, feeds into to the aspect of the film that is the more intriguing and long-lasting element audiences will debate the most: How did a story of this magnitude [1] Become overlooked by so many people (the film has a short, to-the-point answer)?: [2] What does it say in regards to the actions the U.S. government may/has taken to further its agenda in regards to foreign affairs it deems important and [3] On whose behalf is the government truly working if it is willing to (a) go through these extremes and (b) dedicated to silencing a critic to the point his career is permanently affected? While those questions are not ones the film directly seeks to answer, one would be hard pressed to deny that these questions – not to mention others such as what does the story Webb uncovered say about how the government views certain segments of its populace – are intriguing ones the film raises.

The supporting cast does an equally impressive job of adding to the various dilemmas Webb faces, sinking him further down into an abyss for which there is apparently no way out. From personal problems to professional ones, each character adds to Webb's respective rise and fall to give you a fully developed picture of a man suffering for a crime he didn't realize he was committing: Asking too many questions no one wants to answer or take responsibility for once he has.

As the film ultimately proves, however, while these questions are definitely ones everyone should be seeking answers to, we are more than likely to attempt to "kill the messenger" as opposed to allowing someone like Gary Webb to continue asking.



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