• Kill The Messenger

    Released By: Universal
    Released On: February 10, 2015
    Director: Michael Cuesta
    Cast: Jeremy Renner, Robert Patrick, Jena Sims, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
    Year: 2014

    The Film:

    If you thought that there was something squirrelly with Kurt Cobain's death, wait until you hear about Gary Webb. Working for the San Jose Mercury News in the mid-90's, Webb's investigative reporting found him on a story involving the US Government's seizure of alleged drug dealer's assets and properties; assets that weren't returned to those alleged drug dealers even after they managed to beat the conviction. Following a related story, Webb recognizes a connection between trials involving heavy hitters in the narcotics industry in the form of a common paid informant working for the prosecution. Digging a little further, Webb uncovers the fact that this government informant is not only making billions of dollars in illicit narcotics sales, but he may also be just one of the players involved in importing massive amounts of the newly discovered "Crack Cocaine" into the States while the government looks the other way.

    But what's the motive? Why would the government allow such a nasty criminal enterprise to operate freely on US soil? Webb's investigative nature takes him to Nicaragua and a circle of drug cartel bosses who reveal that the CIA have been using their drugs and drug money to fund Reagan's war in South America, buying guns and other assorted weapons for the Contras. Refusing to heed the warnings from these nasty folks that his life could be in danger, Webb heads back to the States where he starts poking his nose around Washington, earning himself a place on the CIA's shitlist.

    With the reluctant backing of his newspaper, Webb's "Dark Alliance" articles are published; the results of his research on the CIA and their unethical actions south of the border. As the information becomes publicly widespread, more questions are asked; did Reagan, supporter of the War on Drugs authorize this activity to get past a lack of funding from Congress? Has the CIA formed an allegiance with Nicaraguan terrorists? Is the crack epidemic that's sweeping South Central Los Angeles and other Black neighbourhoods in America federally sponsored? As Webb gets closer to revealing the truth, the CIA starts pulling out all of the stops to make sure that at the end of the day, Webb's entire life...his job, his family, his finances, his credibility; are left in shambles.

    With a few creative liberties aside, the horror of Kill the Messenger is that the events that it depicts, and Gary Webb's allegations, are most likely true. Now a matter of public record, the CIA did publish a document that confirmed their involvement in South America, something they previously denied staunchly while doing everything in their power to destroy Webb's character. Cuesta's film, based on the book by Nick Schou, shows how the government intimidated Webb by stalking his family home, and calling in favors to have him criticized by other major newspapers and media outlets, ultimately leaving him broke and alone. And then of course, there's the matter of his strange suicide, declared uncommon but not unprecedented; the victim of not one but two self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head.

    The film itself is compelling and fast paced for the most part, and the genuine news footage of the times featuring the crack epidemic and other snippets, as well as a great soundtrack keep the film rolling along smoothly. Fantastic performances from Jeremy Renner and a terrific supporting cast including Oliver Platt, Andy Garcia and Robert Patrick don't hurt either. Kill the Messenger manages to be both entertaining and eerily informing.


    Universal brings Kill The Messenger to blu-ray in a 2.40:1 presentation that looks as good as a new film should. Although some of the "vintage" footage obviously doesn't look as crisp as the rest of the movie, it's blended in well. Black levels are good, detail is crisp, and there aren't any issues visually to report.

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is more than sufficient, with surrounds and sub used to increase the volume and intensity during key scenes, but otherwise used sparingly. Dialogue is well balanced and coherent, and the soundtrack has a decent dynamic range that isn't overwhelming during the louder portions.

    Six Deleted Scenes (9:05) are first up in the supplements, with optional commentary from Cuesta.

    Of course, since it's a Universal blu-ray, the rest of the supplements are broken down into tiny fragments;

    Kill The Messenger: The All Star Cast (2:31) features interviews with Cuesta and the cast of the film talking about....the cast.

    Crack In America (2:51) features interviews with the cast and crew discussing the crack epidemic featured in the film, with participation from a real-live former drug dealer (played by Michael K. Williams in the film).

    Filming in Georgia (2:09) is a short piece on the advantages of filming in Georgia, including multiple locations of different geography that were used in the film and the rebates that one can get for filming in Georgia.

    Finally, a full commentary with Michael Cuesta talks about the genesis of the film, the real Gary Webb, and contributes more information to the actual story told in the film.

    The Final Word:

    So few times are we both educated and entertained by a major motion picture. This story is worth learning.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!