A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the killer birthday blues of “Happy Death Day,” Jackie Chan’s return to adult drama “The Foreigner” and Liam Neeson in the self explanatory “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the birthday blues of “Happy Death Day,” Jackie Chan’s return to adult drama “The Foreigner” and Liam Neeson in the self explanatory “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the birthday blues of “Happy Death Day,” Jackie Chan’s return to adult drama “The Foreigner” and Liam Neeson in the self explanatory “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House.”
The name Mark Felt was one of Washington DC’s best-kept secrets for years. From 1972 to 2005 theories and rumours echoed through the halls of power as to the real name of Deep Throat, the pseudonym given to the secret informant who provided information to Bob Woodward that kick started the Watergate scandal. Now that it’s known that the mysterious figure was actually Mark Felt, the Deputy Associate Director of the FBI, how is it possible to make a cloak-and-dagger thriller out of the story when even the name, the lengthy, “Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House,” gives away the plot?
The film begins as stone-faced keeper of secrets Felt, played by Liam Neeson, learns his boss of thirty years, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, has died. It is presumed that, given his years of experience and service—he’s the G-man’s G-man—that he’ll be offered the top job. “You’re the chief dragon slayer and keeper of the American dream,” says his wife Audrey (Diane Lane).
His new case looks promising as well. He and his team are investigating a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington. It’s a case that Felt feels will have major repercussions, perhaps leading to the very top office in the land, President Nixon’s Oval Office.
His dreams of running the F.B.I. and breaking the explosive Watergate case are scuttled when Hoover’s job goes to an assistant attorney general from Nixon’s Justice Department, L. Pat Gray (Marton Csokas). “Hoover is gone,” Felt is told. “You’re alone now holding the end of your own leash.” Felt, once the second in command is now the odd man out. More than that, Gray wants the Watergate investigation shut down. “You are never going to find what you were looking for,” says Gray. “End it. Shut it down.”
Felt knows the burglars are all ex CIA and FBI with connections to the Committee to Re-Elect the President so rather than let it drop he turns to the press and becomes the most famous—and for a time anonymous—whistleblower in American political history.
“Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House” is a timely look at the role of the FBI versus the White House. Much of Felt’s dialogue—lines like, “No one can stop the driving force of an FBI investigation. Not even the FBI.”—feel like they could have been lifted from James Comey’s Congressional testimony. The story predates Presidents Ford, Jimmy Carter, two Bushes, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama but feels ripped from today’s headlines.
Déjà vu aside, there isn’t much else here of interest. Neeson is the very model of a company man, someone who gave his life to the FBI only to see outside forces—i.e. Nixon’s White House—compromise the Bureau’s effectiveness. “We don’t answer to them,” he grunts. “The White House has no authority on the FBI.” It’s a compelling reason but Neeson is so stoic he’s barely a character and more a mound of finely sculpted grey hair with an attitude. As Felt he has a very particular set of skills. Skills he has acquired over a very long career. Skills that include stoicism. If you don’t give him what he wants he will hunt you down and tell you secrets.
A grafted on story about his missing, possibly radicalized daughter, does nothing to humanize the man who has spent a career as a cipher and only distracts from the intrigue.
“Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House” is based on an explosive story and should be an engaging picture of the backrooms of power and the machinations that brought down a government. Instead it is a talky affair that relies on exposition rather than thrills.
Behind every good scandal there is a good journalist. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein gave us Watergate while muckraker Nick Davies of The Guardian uncovered the phone hacking scandal that proved the News of the World had ears and eyes in the cell phones of some very famous and powerful people. Lesser known is Gary Webb, an investigative reporter for the San Jose Mercury News played by Jeremy Renner in the new film “Kill the Messenger.”
When we meet Webb he’s just broken the biggest story of his career. An exposé on the inequity of the justice system’s habit of stripping suspected drug dealers of their homes and vehicles, whether they are proven guilty or not. The article attracts the attention of Coral Baca (Paz Vega), the girlfriend of a drug dealer. She contacts Webb with some the potentially explosive information that the government has drug dealers on their payroll.
Following the clues he travels to Nicaragua to meet drug lords (Andy Garcia) and crooked bankers (Brett Rice) and to Washington to meet DC insiders (Michael Sheen) to piece together the story of CIA involvement in the smuggling of cocaine into the U.S., and how that money was laundered and used arm rebels fighting in Nicaragua. His articles won him acclaim, but also started a campaign to discredit him by some very powerful people. “Some stories,” he is warned, “are too true to tell.”
Crusading journalists make good characters. They says cool tings like, “The bad guys are usually more honest than the good guys,” put themselves in peril and refuse to take no for an answer. Renner embodies the swagger necessary to play Webb the journalist and, as things fall a part for him professionally and personally, is suitably hangdog. Why then, is “Kill the Messenger” such an endurance test to sit through?
It starts off well enough, piecing the clues together, building to the aha moment when the complicated clues begin to make sense as a whole, but then loses momentum when the movie becomes more about lionizing Webb than it does following the Nicaragua story. Thrown into the mix is a sad indictment of what passes for courage in the journalism racket, which only serves to move Webb closer to the glow of the heroic spotlight.
Renner and the supporting cast, including Rosemarie DeWitt (who is good but wasted in an under-written “wife” role), Tim Blake Nelson as a lawyer whose favorite word is “allegedly” and Ray Liotta (who has an all-too-brief cameo) perform admirably but are weighed down by the script. Webb would have reported the facts and only the facts and “Kill the Messenger” would be a better movie if it took his example and stuck to the truth without the prosthetizing on journalistic ethics.