|'Lazy scripting, particularly in the opening sections, leaves you with a feeling that you're being led along, rather than seeing a story unfold, hardly something you want from a tale to do with journalistic integrity.'|
Kill The Messenger has that sort of long and deep cast list which makes you think 'hmm, I like him' (for they are all hes in this case), before you take another look and realise that most of things 'he' has starred in recently have been low budget direct-to-video offerings of middling quality. Present here with that charge on their rap sheet are Ray Liotta, Robert Patrick, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Andy Garcia, Michael Sheen and Richard Schiff, which is quite the list of names for a film which is, ultimately, a breakout direct-to-video offering which never quite escapes its natural roots.
Not that writer Peter Landesman did not perhaps deserve to find a studio home for his story willing to give it a little more 'oomph' and a director with a little more flair than Michael Cuesta, a veteran of Dexter and Homeland. The true life tale of journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), who in the 1990s uncovered the truth about the US government's turning of a blind eye (at least) to the funding of revolutionary South American contras via drug sales on US soil, Landesman's script sets up ambiguous characters and difficult questions for everyone to answer. There's resonance in Webb's story with contemporary judgement on social media and the twenty-four hour news cycle, which seems a zeitgeist topic for any journalism-led tale at the moment.
The film's shortcomings, which mainly boil down to a lack of tension and pace, are not all to be laid at Cuesta's feet, however. Lazy scripting, particularly in the opening sections, leaves you with a feeling that you're being led along, rather than seeing a story unfold, hardly something you want from a tale to do with journalistic integrity. The fact that Renner is telling you - artificially and largely unprompted - within the opening four minutes that he's a huge fan of justice and due process is a big warning sign that we're in for some very literal moralising.
Righteousness does break out on occasion though, particularly during courtroom scenes which set Tim Blake Nelson's slightly dim lawyer up as a sort of patsy mouthpiece for Renner's accusations at government lackey Russell Dodson (Barry Pepper, unrelated, you assume to Jurassic Park's Dodson, though this is a film to do with conspiracy theories). Those scenes though see pretty much the only compelling sequences Cuesta musters. The newsreel footage of later in the film does catch an ex-government employee declaring that there has 'never been a conspiracy', but the film itself offers nothing as annoyingly stupid or as insidiously evil, despite the story offering both.
Kill The Messenger was playing on Sky's platforms.