Movie Review: ‘Kill the Messenger’

Kill the Messenger Movie Review
Executive editor Jerry Ceppos (Oliver Platt), editor Anna Simons (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and reporter Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) discuss a story in their newspaper in KILL THE MESSENGER, a Focus Features release. (Photo
Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Focus Features)

“I’m going to tell you the whole truth. I’m going to introduce you to people you should talk to and then you will be faced with the most important decision of your life,” says Norwin Meneses (Andy Garcia). “Oh yeah, what’s that?” asks Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner). “Deciding whether to share it or not,” replies Meneses, a drug lord who is about to give reporter Webb the story of his career in the dramatic thriller Kill the Messenger.

After receiving a tip about a drug dealer, journalist Gary Webb stumbles onto a major story of how the crack epidemic began on the streets of America. Webb’s search for the truth leads him to Nicaragua and back to Washington D.C. where it seems that the CIA was aware of all the cocaine smuggling into the U.S. and used the profits to arm the rebels in Nicaragua. Ignoring the warnings from Meneses, CIA officers, and Fred Weil (Michael Sheen) – a politician who’s already tried before to shed light on this government scandal – Webb continues his research and prints his story.

Webb earns high praise for his reporting, but his fame is short-lived as a major smear campaign is launched by both his media competitors (they don’t want to be shown up by a second-rate reporter) and the government.

Based on a true story, Kill the Messenger is an intriguing film that effectively captures one journalist’s search for the truth as well as the desire for a great story and just how life changing it can be. It’s in the same spirit as such films as All the President’s Men and The Insider only, unfortunately, nowhere near as well written and engaging.

Jeremy Renner gives a striking performance as reporter Gary Webb, a man who stumbles across a career-making story that just might be too big and dangerous to tell. The film has a solid supporting cast with Oliver Platt as Webb’s boss Jerry Ceppos, Rosemarie DeWitt as Webb’s estranged wife Sue, Andy Garcia as the drug lord, and Ray Liotta as John Cullen aka Webb’s “Deep Throat” source.

The best part of Kill the Messenger is the first half when the film focuses on following Webb as he collects his evidence and travels all over to interview drug lords and CIA officers. It captures perfectly the tension and magnitude of the story Webb is trying to uncover. However, the biggest problem with the movie is in the second half of the film when persecution and paranoia take over Webb’s life. It completely changes the momentum and tone of the film, effectively ruining the pacing. Also, the subplot of Webb’s struggling marriage and the boring backstory of his infidelity just detracts from the heart of the film.

Still, with Renner’s strong performance and a provocative look into the government’s “turning a blind eye” to the drug smuggling in the U.S., Kill the Messenger is a decent drama and worth checking out.


Kill the Messenger is rated R for language and drug content.

– Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty

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