“National security and crack cocaine in the same sentence. Does that not sound strange to you?” Based on the real story of Gary Webb, Kill the Messenger approaches the life of a man who is trying to tell the truth and how the government and press attempt to destroy him.
The film opens with real news-reel footage rolling. This theme continues throughout the film and splices bits of reality in with the pseudo reality of Hollywood telling a true story. Gary Webb, played by Jeremy Renner, gets a mysterious call from a woman claiming to have information about government involvement in drug pushing in Los Angeles. At first when he answers the phone, it sounds like she’s cruising for a hook up. Being all mysterious and sexy sounding at the end of the phone. Instead, she hooks him up with a federal document and uses his leverage to get a case dropped. Admittedly, the volume rather sucked so I was having a hard time following her soft voice. Sorry, Paz Vega.
All this leads Webb to follow trails to a drug dealer who apparently got his drugs from a government snitch. Or as he puts it, “I was just the elf. Blandon was Santa Claus!” What would eventually be revealed is the selling of crack cocaine in Los Angeles, pushed through by the CIA who are using the money to support the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, which as a country was having political upheaval.
Webb breaks the story, calling it “Dark Alliance.” As predictable with any big story scooped by a small paper, the larger media outlets are rather peeved. So what other choice do they have but to smear his name? This move by the media puts him as well as his sons and wife, played by Rosemarie DeWitt, in the spotlight. “You can take any man’s life and put it under a microscope. You can dissect it and turn a simple man’s life into a circus sideshow.” The writer then becomes the story.
A mysterious figure appears in the middle of the night and begins messing with Webb’s car. He runs out and fires a warning shot and the figure runs down the street. As Webb is chasing him, a car pulls up behind and slowly takes a turn down another road. Hmm… After calling the cops, men show up and begin rooting around in Webb’s office. If I ever doubted he was correct about the CIA, I wouldn’t doubt it after that.
Webb’s career would spiral and he would be shafted out to a dinky newspaper office to produce soft-hearted fluff pieces. He would eventually leave the paper and after dealing with mental illness take his own life. Webb’s story is still a controversial topic in journalism, with many believing he is a cautionary tale of journalistic integrity. Webb’s family considers the film a great tribute to him, showing that he had his issues but was determined to share the truth. Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series can be read online. With the ever expanding powers of the government, it makes one question what all has the government been involved in that we don’t know about? Isn’t that the paranoia that should enter the mind of an American citizen when something like Webb’s story surfaces? It certainly makes me wonder…
See it all unfold for yourself when Kill The Messenger premieres SATURDAY, AUGUST 29 at 8:00pm and plays into September. It also can be found on HBONow/Go and On Demand.