Movie Talk

Jeremy Renner signs on for ‘Kill the Messenger’

Photo: WireImage

Jeremy Renner is a man in possession of impressive pectoral muscles and even more impressive powers of distraction. Barely a week after his latest effort, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” became one of the worst-reviewed films of 2013 (quoth Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers, “a lame-brained, limp dick attempt to update a classic Brothers Grimm tale”), Renner has made us all forget about his leather-clad fairy tale frolic with the news that he’ll star in and co-produce “Kill the Messenger,” a thriller directed by Michael Cuesta.

Deadline reports that the film, which is based on the true story of Garby Webb, an investigative journalist who committed suicide after being smeared by the CIA, will be co-produced by Renner’s The Combine and Scott Stuber’s Bluegrass Films. Stuber set the project in motion eight years ago while he was a producer at Universal; its script, written by Peter Landesman, is based on Webb’s “Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion,” and Nick Schou’s “Kill the Messenger: how the CIA’s Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb.”

As those titles imply, Webb, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, got in trouble with the CIA when he published “Dark Alliance,” his 1996 three-part series linking the government organization to a scheme to import cocaine to California and use the profits to arm Contra rebels in Nicaragua. As a result of his work, Webb was castigated by his colleagues and lost the backing of his paper; his credibility severely damaged, he committed suicide in 2004. The film promises to make the argument that Webb was right, and that the CIA tried to discredit his work to conceal a scandal.

Cuesta, who also directed Renner in 2005’s “Twelve and Holding,” has helmed eight episodes of “Homeland,” (which he also executive produces) making him an apt choice for the project. But don’t expect the CIA to get the sympathetic treatment it enjoys on “Homeland”: if “Kill the Messenger”’s source material is any indication, this is going to be one harrowing trip to the heart of darkness.