Movie review: War on Drugs tale "Kill the Messenger" a worthy thriller

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The drama “Kill the Messenger” is a period piece set in a distant time when investigative journalism still mattered: the late ’90s.

Based on a true story (aren’t they all?), it tells the tale of Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), an investigative reporter for the San Jose Mercury News in California.

A story on drug-related property seizures eventually leads Gary down a deep rabbit hole. He uncovers allegations that the CIA was directly or indirectly involved with the smuggling of drugs into the U.S. and used the resulting cash to fund Nicaraguan rebels.

“Kill the Messenger” opens with a “War on Drugs” montage that hits the hypocrisy of what’s to come with all the subtlety of a brick. That said, it is fair to wonder why we barely remember the story that implicates the U.S. government in the crack epidemic. Spoiler alert: We were more concerned with Bill Clinton’s penis.

With a solid cast — especially Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Webb’s editor and Rosemarie Dewitt as his wife — director Michael Cuesta constructs a solid thriller.

Of course, it’s impossible to separate that the workings of a newsroom are more interesting to me as someone who worked in one. Fighting with an editor over a crucial cut to work may not be edge-of-your-seat material for everyone. (Editors, suck!)

“Messenger” works better when it plays like a spy thriller than when it turns to Webb’s family life, but it’s still a smart, worthwhile film.

"Kill the Messenger"

Opens Friday

3 stars out of 4