Kill the Messenger

Interesting, in the awesome nice unique way. Literally.


It's not so much that you're watching a train wreck, but a highly detailed and lovingly hand‑drawn blueprint on how to make one.
-spacer-
Reported on 15th of February, 2015

It’s shame that ‘interesting’ has lost its meaning, as Kill the Messenger seems tailor made for the Webster usage revival of the word. At first a very good film, then, quite suddenly, a very terrible film, but for reasons detailed by the correct use of the word ‘interesting’. Watching the film entails a fascination that almost, but doesn’t, makes up for actual entertainment value. It’s not so much that you’re watching a train wreck, but a highly detailed and lovingly hand-drawn blueprint on how to make one.

Kill the Messenger

18 February 2015 @ On My Fat Ass


$2.00 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

menu

The story, which I actually know pretty well, is compelling enough: the willingness of the CIA to actively break drugs laws to manipulate foreign policy. And here is the first twenty minutes, which moves along like a 2 bed Park Slope walk-up but they’re throwing in cable and water for free version of JFK. Plus they go to a very real Latin American jail, and everybody likes seeing something new on screen. Cool. Then something odd happens: the film’s slow-motiony shift to Mr. Gary Ross, the actual human being that wrote about these things for The San José Mercury News, and his subsequent vilification by the masser media.

Back in the 1980s, cocaine was $100 a gram in 1984 dollars. This is when the dollar really meant something. In this case, a piece of paper to bindle‑fold your stash in.

Even this story could have been interesting as we see the ins and outs of ‘legitimate’ papers like the Times and the Post attacking smaller papers who were more diligent. But as the film unfolds, its focus turns to Mr. Ross’ story, almost exclusively. And that’s fine, I guess, until you quickly realize that a film about the tragedy of losing sight of the story by focusing exclusively on its reporter is now a film that has lost sight of the story by exclusively focusing on its reporter. Really. In attempting to expose the way in which the media made Mr. Ross the story, it makes Mr. Ross the story to the exclusion of anything that he actually wrote about. It’s like doing a anti-war film that glorifies…, no, wait a conspiracy film that makes the villain the most compelling….

Okay fine. Not the first film undone by its own lack of awareness. Kill the Messenger, however, felt a bit like the first of its kind. At least before I saw CitizenFour do exactly the same thing, despite the actual Mr. Edward Snowden making on-camera admonitions not to. Is Making The Story Of People Making Someone The Story By Making Them The Story a genre now? If it is, I don’t like it.

Yes, I saw it on my ass, as I did Nightcrawler and Skeleton Twins. My excuse is that as I go into France, movies come out in the UK, and when I return they come out in France. I'm going to need a bigger TV, and someone there to make sure I don't pause it.

Yes, I saw it on my ass, as I did Nightcrawler and Skeleton Twins. My excuse is that as I go into France, movies come out in the UK, and when I return they come out in France. I’m going to need a bigger TV, and someone there to make sure I don’t pause it.

The schematic derailment in Kill the Messenger is best represented in the inclusion, rather the exclusion, of Mr. Michael K. Williams. Mr. Williams was this year in quite a few films: Robocop, Inherent Vice, 12 Years a Slave (saw it this year), and Kill the Messenger, each time far too briefly. And not one of those films, not one, would be vastly improved by his casting as the lead. Seriously, what the fuck? This guy is a charisma machine, and for the seven of us who saw Life During Wartime, has fucking range. I am at a loss.

In the case of Kill the Messenger, it’s not so much that he should have played Mr. Gary Webb, though that would have been fine too. It’s that the film needed to be expanded to include the character that he did play. Mr. Ricky Ross, a real person, is the father, for better or worse, of crack. Let me explain, because the film fucking didn’t:

Back in the 1980s, cocaine was $100 a gram in 1984 dollars. This is when the dollar really meant something: in this case, a piece of paper to bindle-fold your stash in. Coke, then, was to be snorted or shot, meaning that it didn’t need to be pure. When you smoke it, adorably called freebasing then, you are doing so in its purest form. At the time, you took whatever shit you bought on the street and cooked in down to purify it in order that it might be smoked. At $100 a gram, at, say 20% pure, this was the provence of the rich, famous, and tragic, as we know from poor Mr. Richard Pryor.

What Mr. Ricky Ross did, contingent upon the drastic reduction in price that occurred in the mid-eighties, was become the Roy Croc of crack. As the price went down, he took out the middleman, which in this case was an extremely dangerous frying pan full of ether. CIA supported cocaine was a small part of this Smithian price drop, but it was a part, just as Mr. Gary Webb was a part, and Mr. Ricky Ross, and Col. Oliver North and so on. Yes it would be a hell of a series that no one would watch and then talk about how they did and how you haven’t lived until you’ve seen it, but if they actually had watched it when it was on, it would still be on the air and they shouldn’t have killed Omar and shut up. But then we’d never know about Mr. Williams range, so there.

But this could still be a film. It terms of film story, this one works better like good Tarantino films do (and the bad ones do not): not as the choice of one person, but because the intersection of many. It’s fun to see it as a conspiracy of the CIA to addict black people to drugs, but reality is infinitely more compelling both as history and storytelling. What you have is a real opportunity to show how this shitty social reality got off its feet. The CIA didn’t set out to be part of the devastation visited upon the poor and largely black communities of America. The story of cynicism and apathy is much worse and scarier than that, for it is one in which we all play a part.

And by all play a part, that’s the way in which every side of the political spectrum sees a bias in the media. One might call this bias bias, or just plain stupid given that everyone knows that everyone else believes the opposite of what they do, and then explain this by saying that the other side is simply wrong, which the other side believes about you and so on down the whirlpool. But the media is actually imbued with protagonal bias, a word I just made up. This is the idea that story has to have a person at the center. This is a bias that the CIA gleefully takes advantage of, but can only do so because we succumb to it so easily.

In the case of this film, and this subject, it’s a real shame, as glimpsed in the first 20 minutes, which were genuinely exciting. But besides being an inaccurate way to see reality, it generally (though not always, no, never mind, always) leads to bad storytelling. Compelling characters. But maybe that’s the point too. The wider the circle, the bigger chance we get caught in it.

Profits!
Easy to breakdown – the minutes that told the story @ $0.50/minute.
$10.00
Total Profits
$10.00
Losses!
The minutes that told HIS story at $0.10/minute.
$8.00
Total Losses
$8.00

$2.00

The Lonely Comments Section

menu

Annoyed? Prove it!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *