Archive for the ‘Michael Cuesta’ Category

Rogue Mercenary

American Assassin

Director: Michael Cuesta

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Taylor Kitsch, Sanaa Lathan, David Suchet, Scott Adkins, Shiva Negar, Navid Neghban, Charlotte Vega

Kill the Messenger director Michael Cuesta returns to the big screen with his next film the action packed globetrotting American Assassin starring Dylan O’Brien (Deepwater Horizon) as Mitch Rapp and Michael Keaton (Spotlight, Birdman) as his CIA trainer Stan Hurley.

American Assassin opens on an idyllic Spanish beach in Ibiza whereby Mitch is videoing his gorgeous girlfriend Katrina swimming and whereupon he soon proposes to her. The romantic seemingly delightful scene is shattered when terrorists open fire on the beach goers in a horrific scene that which mirrored a real life attack in Tunisia.

Then back in America, Mitch is recruited by the CIA after a failed attempt to take revenge on the perpetrators of the attack. He is sent off for training in Virginia by the tough Hurley whilst the deputy director Irene Kennedy played by Sanaa Lathan (Now You See Me 2) is handling a bigger crisis: weapons grade plutonium has been stolen from an abandoned site in Russia and is currently being sold on the black market by a rogue mercenary simply known as Ghost played with psychopathic intensity by Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Savages).

The action moves to Istanbul, Turkey whereby Mitch teams up with CIA counter-terrorism operative played by Iranian-Canadian star Shiva Negar as they hunt down the Ghost and through various political intrigue between the Iranians and the CIA, they discover that this lethal rogue mercenary plans on using the plutonium to maximum effect in the Mediterranean.

From Istanbul to Rome, the action is swift with the 26 year old Dylan O’Brien holding his own as a lead actor in a big budget action film as he beefs up thanks to his experience on the hugely popular Maze Runner franchise.

Audiences should take note that there is a gruesome torture scene in a sprawling refugee housing project outside Rome.

American Assassin is a thrilling action film at face value, expertly shot by Cuesta and making use of the extensive locations from Virginia to Dubai. Gritty, fast paced and definitely entertaining, with the most notable scenes being the Virtual Reality assassin practice sequence as well as the speedboat fight scene on the Mediterranean.

American Assassin gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for action film fans.

The film is not quite in the category of the spy thriller Jason Bourne but definitely worthy enough to be classed within the same gritty, espionage globetrotting genre, which has become such a lucrative money spinner. Perhaps director Michael Cuesta will consider making a sequel maximizing the potential of its hunky young lead star, Dylan O’Brien.


The Veracity of the Story

Kill the Messenger


Director: Michael Cuesta

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Robert Patric, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Platt, Paz Vega, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael Kenneth Williams, Barry Pepper, Michael Sheen, Gil Bellows, Dan Futterman

Oscar nominee for The Hurt Locker and The Town, Jeremy Renner plays the real life investigative journalist Gary Webb, who while working for the San Jose Mercury News uncovers a complex story involving the CIA, crack cocaine, money laundering and the funding of the Nicaraguan Contra Rebels to topple the Sandinista lead government in a dirty war in the Central American nation –

Gary Webb expertly played by Renner was best known for his Dark Alliance series of articles which gained international media attention before the days of Wikileaks, which uncovered the origins of crack cocaine on the streets of South Central Los Angeles and allegedly traces its roots and funding back to the CIA which was using the profits of the drug sales to fund the Contra Rebels in Nicaragua in the mid 1980’s to the 1990’s.

Whilst the crux of director Michael Cuesta’s film Kill The Messenger is about media ethics it also delves deeper into the murky world of career and character assignation when the established media houses included The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post claimed that Webb’s explosive articles could not be substantiated by credible sources as most of those were shady drug runners, secretive government operatives and vanishing Swiss bankers in Panama City.


The revelations sparked outrage in many of the African American communities of America’s major cities especially Los Angeles. The drug ring helped escalate a crack cocaine epidemic on the streets of many of these cities and more shockingly the profits were being used by the CIA and also paved the way for the Colombian drug cartels to enter the American market.

Webb’s Dark Alliance series focused on the links between three men, Danilo Blandon; Ricky Ross played by Michael Kenneth Williams and a more elusive Norwin Menezes played by Andy Garcia.

What Kill the Messenger shows is that in the days before instant online information leaks which have characterised the 21st century that the American Intelligence community did anything to discredit the author of the story and in this case Webb’s own career and life suffers tremendously when he directly names the CIA in a complex tale of money-laundering, drug running and political interference.

Webb soon resigns from the San Jose Mercury News and takes up a less prolific post in Cupertino, California, while his relationship with his wife and children suffer immensely, as witnessed by his wife Sue played by Rosemarie DeWitt as Sue wife and teenage son Eric played by Matthew Lintz both whom can see that Webb has become a victim of a calculated smear campaign to basically discredit him as an investigative journalist.


Throughout the entire disownment of the story by established media houses including an internal investigation into the veracity of the sources by Webb’s own newspaper San Jose Mercury News, Webb is convinced that his Dark Alliance series has truth and merit, which besides any investigative flaws did manage to inflame the African American community to demand answers from the Director of the CIA as to the unrelenting flood of crack cocaine in their neighbourhoods.

There is a fundamental shift in Kill the Messenger, which director Cuesta handles intelligently in that the film ceases to be about the story that Webb has uncovered but more about Webb as a person with all his character defects. There is a line in the film which sums this up – “If you put a man under a microscope then all his life’s flaws and discrepancies will come to light”

Renner acts the part of Gary Webb intensely and passionately as he soon realizes that he has become the story and not what his story was about, something not too dissimilar to what has happened to contemporary whistle blowers such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.

Kill the Messenger is a fascinating portrait of an investigative journalist who uncovers an international web of corruption, lies and money laundering only to find himself the victim of his own story. Unfortunately the veracity of the story takes its toll on the storyteller.

Cuesta’s film whilst filled with a sprinkling of character actors including a fabulous cameo by Mexican actress Paz Vega and loads of directorial embellishments is not a perfect film, but certainly a provocative story which at least vindicates Gary Webb’s own personal battle to get the truth out there, despite the costs. Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed The Fifth Estate, All the Presidents Men and The Paperboy.



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