Star – Jeremy Renner
Genre – Drama >Biopic
Run Time – 112 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – USA
Awards – 2 Wins & 4 nominations
Amazon – £2.20 DVD £5.62 Blue Ray
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Gary Webb: ‘American kids did die and are still dying, just not the ones you care about, apparently’.
The Oliver North and the CIA/Contra alliance is a story we have all heard about in Britain but not a story we really know about. One of the biggest believed conspiracies by most Black Americans is that the CIA flooded their communities with cheap crack cocaine in the 1980s to get them addicted so they would fail in big numbers, a life of welfare and self destruction. It was one of those statements at the time that had white people ‘tut tutting’ again and the prejudice only grew between the two. Well it turned out there is more than an element of truth to these claims, the subject mater of this enjoyable true story about California investigative journalist Gary Webb, who an unearthed an unholy alliance between the US government, the drugs trade and Central American guerillas.
When it happened it was the height of the Cold War and Central America on the front line. The US was covertly truing to overthrow left wing democratically elected socialist regimes and their illegal actions couldn’t go through the books. They had to find ways to fund it and arm the Contras in Nicaragua to overthrow the Russian backed government, the same way the Russians have kept in power with Assad in Syria, that cold War freeing over once again. The chosen method was for the CIA to work with the cartels to ‘assist’ the arrival of cocaine into the United States and take a cut of the profits to buy arms for the contras back in Nicaragua. The byproduct was they moved the Drug War to America as thousands of disaffected and now addicted unemployed young black kids couldn’t resist buying the deliberately cheap drugs (effectively government subsidized) over and over again. The oversupply caused cutthroat gang wars and thousands died as the cancer spread across America. But for Gary Webb the biggest story of his life would be his downfall as the jealous bigger print publications who missed the story would turn on his paper and then the mainstream TV media and establishment join in to rubbish his claims by claiming shoddy journalism to try and destroy him. Back then you may have had the greatest news scoop in the world but if you can’t prove it 100% you can’t print it. It’s all change today, of course.
Jeremy Renner plays Webb in the movie and wisely turned down the chance to play that prat Julian Assange in the misfire that was The Fifth Estate, a similar tale of the journalist becoming the story. Renner read Nick Schou’s book on the Contra affair and, like me, amazed this stuff went on. But it was still an embarrassing taboo subject with the CIA and various members of the cast and crew have did and admitted to receiving government-level "push back" to the project, both during filming and in post-production. Just as Webb was threatened they were. Even the cinema chains and studios backed off with a limited release and poor marketing.
• Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb
• Rosemarie DeWitt as Susan Webb
• Ray Liotta as John Cullen
• Tim Blake Nelson as Alan Fenster
• Barry Pepper as Russell Dodson
• Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Anna Simons
• Paz Vega as Coral Baca
• Oliver Platt as Jerry Ceppos
• Michael Sheen as Fred Weil
• Richard Schiff as Walter Pincus
• Andy García as Norwin Meneses
• Robert Patrick as Ronny Quail
• Michael K. Williams as "Freeway" Rick Ross
• Jena Sims as Little Hottie
• Joshua Close as Rich Kline
• Yul Vazquez as Danilo Blandon
• Robert Pralgo as Sheriff Nelson
• Lucas Hedges as Ian Webb
• Michael Rose as Jonathan Yarnold
• Matthew Lintz as Eric Webb
• Michael H. Cole as Pete Carey
• David Lee Garver as Douglas Farah
• Andrew Masset as Johnathan Krim
Small time investigative reporter Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) of the regional California paper the San Jose Mercury News is running a column on drug lords and dealers in his home state– suspected or not – having their possessions sized by the government. One day a gorgeous Latin girl called Coral Baca (Paz Vega) approaches him with a story and an intriguing top secret government document. Coral’s boyfriend Daniello Blandon (Yul Vazquez) is an international drug dealer and up in court in Pasadena. Coral uses her feminine charms to trick Webb to get these documents to the defense lawyer to expose the fact her man was in coalition with the CIA in Nicaragua. This unexpected revelation triggers the arrival of shady government types to the courtroom and after some whispering with the judge the surprising miss-trial verdict and so the release of Blandon. Webb knows he has been played but doesn’t quite realize what he has with the document. When he begins to make some calls he is astounded what he rally has.
A flight to Nicaragua to meet with imprisoned druglord Norwin Meneses (Andy García) reveals the route the drugs took and who was paid that end and then a meeting with the incarcerated "Freeway" Rick Ross (Michael K. Williams) in a US jail reveals how they distributed the product in the US and received help from the CIA to get it in, an agreed percentage of the sale of the drugs in America buying arms for the Contras.
Those court and newspaper revelations in his paper draw positive and negative reaction in equal measure. The editor (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and general manager (Oliver Platt) love the story and puts the San Jose paper on the map. Webb has exposed a government conspiracy of the highest order. But the CIA are soon leaning on him to back off and threatening his family. Rightful paranoia ensues, checking his car and home security overnight for bombs and intruders. But the powers that be switch tactics when he goes to print some more and begin to discredit Webb so to make him and his extremely damaging ‘Dark Alliance’ column go away. The big media outlets with their even bigger budgets are embarrassed they didn’t get the story and a little local did and so can’t resist attacking his tradecraft. But once Webb’s own paper turns on him and he is moved sideways to an even smaller publication out in the sticks he knows he has become the story and now fighting for his integrity. Even his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) loses faith in him as each source is contested through the media, many now denying they spoke to him. The question then is was he making most of it up after all or was it just sloppy local paper journalism and the alliance very real?
Gary Webb: I thought my job was to tell the public the truth, the facts; pretty or not, and let the publishing of those facts make a difference in how people look at things, at themselves, and what they stand for...
Like Apollo 13, if you don’t know the true story then the film is a far more enjoyable experience. Most of us have heard about the Oliver North scandal but a very American story and so we didn’t really take note of it at the time. I have always thought the story was about Iran for some reason but now I know different. It is incredible to think the CIA would sanction such a crazy scheme of flooding the ghettos with cheap drugs and all the consequences thereafter. But they did and this mid budget biopic headed by an excellent performance by Renner brings that story back into the public eye and well worth seeking out.
Jeremy Renner has yet to really make his mark in cinema after buggering up the Bourne movies and being that bloke with the bow-and-arrow in the Marvel background and so nice to see a good workout of his acting chips here. Some critics say the film lacks momentum and jeopardy because the story concentrates on his Webb and so becomes a character study piece but for me that’s what made it interesting. If you do the whole thing with the dark music and hitmen with silences ready to silence the good guy it also loses its edge on the subject matter it’s actually about and becomes a bog standard thriller, The International with Sean Penn an example of. I think there is a certain reality here of the way journalists are undermined by the sate when they get an important story. Its not going to be agency guys staking out your house that stop publication and so authentication of the story but simply making the journalist the story and throwing enough mud until some sticks. Dr Kelly was probably murdered by the state as he knew too much but the story went away as it was discredited from on high. In fact Webb and Kelly’s story draws parallels as Webb was also found dead ten years later with’ two’ bullet holes in his head. His wife said he was suicidal at the time after the event as he simply could not find journalist work after he was discredited but you just don’t know. The sinister way we were tricked to go to war in Iraq and the actions of the CIA in Central America prove the state can be sadistic enough to get rid of people like Webb and Kelly.
It’s an entertaining film if not that gripping. It lags a little in the middle and too long at nearly two hours. We don’t get enough detail about the actual drug operation and some of the key characters around Webb rather two dimensional. There were also some ‘alterations’ in the script that did not match those told in the real story but not veering from the actual criminality or facts of the actual case. For instance Blandon was gay in real life and the Pez Vega character a muchacha. For some reason the director didn’t want that in his film. Maybe the macho cartel didn’t want it in the film? It bombed big time in the cinema though because the forces that be didn’t really want it out there and for its $5 million budget did just $2.5m back, a shame as it’s an interesting little film. Webb is my kind of guy, telling the truth when it’s needed to be told, come what may. With Donald Trump in The Whitehouse and the news media all about entertainment over real news now I fear we will see fewer and fewer of the hero’s like Webb.
Imdb.com –7.0 /10.0 (34,527votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 78% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 60% critic’s approval
Little White Lies –‘Solid, though director Michael Cuesta doesn't have the journalistic balls of his subject’.
Guardian –‘Not since 2003's Shattered Glass has the journalistic pursuit of truth been presented on screen as such a mortally serious matter of honor.’
Daily Telegraph –“Jeremy Renner is superb as a reporter ruined by his biggest story, but The Parallax View this isn't’
Empire Magazine –‘The type of well-intentioned docudrama more likely to leave your head shaking than your pulse pounding’.
The Observer –‘It's sporadically gripping but ultimately rather frustrating fare, leaving us intrigued enough by the conspiracy-theory backstory to want hard documentary evidence rather than mere dramatic license’.
South China Morning Post –‘The script by former journalist Peter Landesman, who recently directed the medical drama Concussion, does a good job of simplifying a complex real-life chain of events’.
The Film Stage –‘The film doesn't demand that you now respect Webb or sing his praises, but it does ask you to look at the cracks in that tranquil façade, and to keep looking, no matter how much it seems to fracture’.
The Sun –‘The first half of the movie captivates as it runs through his impressive investigation. But the fallout from Webb's scoop is less enthralling and the story loses traction as it focuses on his crumbling personal life’.
Vue is the only cinema in Blackburn and it is located on a retail park near the train station close to the centre of town. It has 10 screens and these are located upstairs in the building (or up in the lift). There is a bowling alley downstairs which is good if you want to bowl and then watch a film or vice versa. There is also a range of restaurants on the adjoining retail park - Pizza hut and Frankie and Bennys for example.
It is a typical Vue cinema with plenty of expensive food - the usual popcorn, sweets and ice cream. I like the old fashioned cinemas but there's not many of them anymore. Vue cinemas are functional and have all the latest films.
I usually go on an orange Wednesday (where you get two for the price of one - you need to have an orange phone and to send a text requesting a code for this). The car park can get very busy on Wednesday evenings because of this and tickets for recently released films can run out.
All in all it's a convenient cinema with options to extend your entertainment with bowling, eating out or heading into the town centre afterwards.
Vue Cinema opened up about five years ago. To say Blackburn is such a large town its a surprise that there has never been a large cinema in the town. We used to have to either travel to Preston or Bolton or make do with the tiny cinema in town that was really old and old had 4 very old screens.
This cinema is a typical vue one. Its got twelve screens, some big some smaller depending upon which film you are seeing. All the modern films are shown and they sometimes show ones that our hard to find anywhere else. They also have the ability to screen the modern 3D films which is good news.
I must say I'm, not a huge fan of the new cinema. I often go to the one in Bolton which I think is much better. The Blackburn one does not have as many facitlies. They is a balling alley down stairs with a bar in it but its next to the games arcade which means its really noisy and full of kids. They have recently had to put bouncers on the doors and they dont let kids in on there own as they had loads of problems with kids coming in off the local estates and casuing probelms.
The food is very expensive in the cinema all though this is something that you tend to find with most cinemas. The price for a ticket is around £6.00 which again is pretty average. If your watching a 3D film its closer to £10. Again about average.
The screens themselves seem to be ok. But again I've been in better cinemas. I have found sometimes there is alot of rubbish left around and popcorn on the floors or seats, I honestly think this is because of the area the cinema is in, you get some pretty scruffy people rolling in who dont really seem to care about other people.
The seats are quite comfy and you do get a decent amount of leg room which is always a good thing. The sound in the cinema is also quite good and I think as this is a modern cinema all the sound systems are pretty much as good as they get.
If you are looking for times of films and what is showing you can always check the myvue.com. Here it is pretty easy to find the cinema your looking for and check whats on.
There is a pretty good size car park at the cinema but it does fill up quite quickly and then iy can be tricky to find parking. Last time I went the car next to me had been broken into which really worried me, I don't feel like my car is very safe parked on this car park which again is a reflection of the area the cinema is in.
Overall this is a decent cinema but not a great one. Sometimes I still travel to Bolton which is half an hour away. I prefer the cinema there and think its a shane that Blackburn is not quite upto that standard. That said its nice to have a local option that I can always use. Anyway if your in Blackburn and fancy catching a film this is a good option.
Vue cinema is the only picture house in Blackburn. It is situated on the edge of the town centre on a retail park at the rear of the train station. It houses a bowlplex with cafe and bar and is surrounded by various eating establishments in close proximity such as pizzahut, chiquitos and frankie and benny's.
The cinema complex is easy to get to by bus or trin and can be accessed through the subway at the train station. If you are driving access is from the Darwen street end of town. Parking can be busy at peak times but i have never struggled to find a place.
The cinema boasts 10 screens with a seating capacity of around 6300 and is always showing a variety of pictures to suit all ages and tastes.
they often have incentives such as Kids am. For only 95p a ticket on selected films Saturday and Sunday mornings and every morning in the School Holidays. Cheap enough to take the kids for the price of an adult ticket, however if booking on line it charges over£2.00 for a card processing fee. Still a cheap morning out!
Cheap day is tuesday with tickets only £3.70 all day and you can easily sign up now for a free Cheap Day Tuesday card online.
Vue offers voucers for those who are regular cinema goers such as the vue more voucher where you save £1.50 on all adult ticket, 75p on all other tickets, when you return within two weeks.
Tickets can be purchased online with a fee or in the machine on the ground floor. They can also be purchased from the counter on the first floor where you will be greated by friendly helpful staff.
One evening i visited the cinema with a friend and when paying for the ticket the staff member reminded me it was orange wednesday and gave me the number to text, she waited for my confirmation code to come through and then processed the tickets 2 for 1 how good is that so we both got in for the price of 1 adult ticket thanks to the helpful member of staff.
There is a large selection of overpriced sweets popcorn and drinks and even a ben and jerrys icecream counter.
Overall a good night out! You can even make it a day out with the kids and visit the bowllex underneath get a spot of dinner and a film all under one roof!
The cinema at vue is really nice in comparison to the old one in the town centre. I think it has 13 or 14 screenings and unless its a brand new movie you can always find seats next to each other.
The car parking can be a bit of a problem (especially on orange wednesday) as it is often hard to find a space. There is also a JJB gym next to the cinema which shares the carpark (kind of) therefore a lot of the gym goers go onto the car park as well. I often find myself parking on the trainstation car park at the back of vue, this only really happens on a Wednesday though.
The cinema staff are relatively helpful, they can recommend films that are on or coming out. The price of the food is really expensive as is most places, however they do do some meal deals, even if these are expensive too. The cinema has the orange wednesday deals, therefore you can get buy one get one free tickets on a wednesday which is really good!
The screenings themselves are fairly big with huge screens. Some security men come into the screening sometimes to check that the kids arn't messing around, and if they are they get thrown out. I did have a couple of lads chucking stuff at me throughout a movie and they got removed. There is hardly ever any problems though.
One criticism of the cinema is that it doesn't have the "family" feel that the old cinema did. I don't know if it was because it was in an old building but the old cinema felt so much more friendly and cosy, it was a real "day trip out" experience, where as now I only really go to the cinema at night.
All in all it is a better cinema as it is much bigger and even has a bowling complex. It is a bit expensive but its fun for all ages.