Kill The Messenger, film review: Jeremy Renner gives a rousing performance but 'true' story is a little one-dimensional

(15) Michael Cuesta, 112 mins Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Oliver Platt

Geoffrey Macnab
Friday 06 March 2015 01:00 GMT

Pitched somewhere between an Alan J Pakula conspiracy thriller of the 1970s and a family drama, this is the "true" story of investigative journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner).

Webb was a reporter with the San Jose Mercury News who broke a sensational story about the "dark alliance" between the CIA and the Contras in Nicaragua and cocaine smugglers in the US. He was briefed against by the CIA and roundly smeared, and his methods were questioned by rival media organisations. The stories that made him a national figure took a toll on his personal life and career.

Renner, who also produced, plays Webb as a reckless, free-spirited journalist, racing around on his motorbike or in his sports car. When he is writing his most important article, "Know Your Rights" by the Clash pumps out on the soundtrack to reinforce his rebel credentials.

It is a rousing performance but the film is a little one-dimensional in its portrayal of Webb as a result. By emphasising his heroism so forcefully, the film-makers risk straining the complexity from the story. Kill the Messenger ends on a muted and ambivalent note. The film-makers are strangely reluctant to explore what happened to its subject in the years after his scoop, relying instead on intertitles to do the work.

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