Sunday, November 2, 2014

Kill The Messenger (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Kill the Messenger

Jeremy Renner gives a raw and visceral performance as Gary Webb, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News in "Kill the Messenger" by director Michael Cuesta (L.I.E.). Leave it to Renner, the combustible actor of "The Hurt Locker" to bring a real verve to this man who was clearly hunted and vilified because of his searing journalism and his book Dark Alliance.

It is 1996 and Bill Clinton is in the White House. Gary Webb is a small time reporter. No one pays much attention to him. Webb writes a story about drug dealers being stripped of their rights and houses even after they are acquitted. His news office takes notice and he scores a hit.

One day he gets a surprise call from a gangster's moll, the seductive Coral Baca (Paz Vega) who has a body like an infinity sign. Baca tells Webb that she has proof that her man possesses grand jury testimony about dealers getting crack into the country and selling it to the CIA to provide cash for a dirty war, specifically to fight the Contras in Nicaragua.

Webb confronts DA Russell Dodson (excellently played by Barry Pepper, one of the best unsung actors today) and he is as smarmy as they come. Webb travels to Central America and interviews Norwin Meneses (Andy Garcia) who gives him some cryptic news. He then goes to a Swiss banker Hansjorg Baier, (Brett Rice)  who becomes indispensable. He is corpulent, dapper and smooth with more Highsmithic ability than Chester McFarland from "The Two Faces of January".

With enough information, Webb writes with silver speed on wings of light. In one notable scene, he pummels the air with his big brassy arms and lets out a primal scream. In his moments of restless energy he seems like John Belushi or maybe Hunter Thompson ( after all both were truth-tellers, albeit with different mediums). Webb's story breaks as is and he is treated as a celeb or an enfant terrible almost on the level with a Truman Capote. Everyone wants him from 60 Minutes on down.

Then the noose tightens.

This is tightly crafted with more spooks than any sociopathic scare fest. The later scenes containing some soundless cement jawed agents are both as otherworldly and as creepily tangible as anything depicted in "The Matrix".

Renner is flawless as a gutsy but down to earth journalist who becomes literally asphyxiated by his reporting with no real outlet for his work. Through it all he tries to hold on in loving his caring wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) who becomes increasingly put off by his covert journeys.

Oliver Platt appears as a sycophantic boss who is all charm when Webb is on top and then full  of aversion and petty belittlement for him when the media backs away.

Granted "The Hurt Locker" was Jeremy Renner's breakthrough, but you will remember this actor just as much for this role. Through Renner's  incarnation, we feel the weight on Webb's shoulders as a textural experience.

The most disturbing thing in the film is that it shows an American agency, namely the CIA, acting with impunity and squashing this man in its path as the rest of the country is suddenly overwhelmed in the voluptual blindness of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

There was more virulent national poison afoot and "Kill the Messenger" deserves its rightful place among other films like "All the President's Men" and "State of Play" for its part in exposing a genuine toxicity with tension and grace.

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