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Movie Review

Kill the Messenger

MPAA Rating: R for language and drug content.

Reviewed by: John Decker

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Political Crime Thriller Biography Drama
1 hr. 52 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 10, 2014 (wide—350+ theaters)
October 17, 2014 (expanded)
October 24, 2014 (wide)
DVD: February 10, 2015
Copyright, Focus Features click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Focus Features

investigative journalism / journalists


smear campaign

smuggling illegal drugs

cover up

media manipulation

adultery / affairs

Featuring: Jeremy RennerGary Webb
Michael SheenFred Weil
Ray LiottaJohn Cullen
Tim Blake NelsonAlan Fenster
Andy GarciaNorwin Meneses
Barry Pepper … Russell Dodson
Oliver PlattJerry Ceppos
Mary Elizabeth Winstead … Anna Simons
Rosemarie DeWitt … Sue Webb
Paz Vega … Coral Baca
Robert Patrick … Ronald J. Quail
Jena Sims … Quail's Girlfriend
Robert Pralgo … L.A. Sheriff
Hajji Golightly … DEA Agent
Ted Huckabee … Bob
Lucas Hedges … Ian Webb
Matthew Lintz … Eric Webb
more »
Director: Michael Cuesta
Producer: Bluegrass Films
The Combine
Distributor: Focus Features

“Can you keep a national secret?”

Copyrighted, Focus Features

“Kill the Messenger” tells the story of Gary Webb, the reporter who exposed the use of cocaine trafficking by the CIA to fund quashing of a rebellion in Nicaragua. Webb is accused by government and fellow media alike of stretching the story. This ad hominem campaign had some level of success, but it did not succeed in suppressing the truth for those who listen closely.

As for the quality of this film, I applaud it for not being phantasmal. It does not portray Webb as anything but human. The movie felt to me much like a dramatic documentary (docudrama) of fairly high caliber.

“Kill the Messenger” has some poetic merit with its display of interpersonal relationships and accountability. This is of a mature nature, there are conversations regarding an affair. So it is worthy of some caution. Like most entertainment media, if you aren’t discussing the issues of the world with your children, they are likely to be caught off guard. Why else would God’s word contain some of the most devastating stories imaginable, such as King David’s killing of Uriah and taking his wife, and the repeated corruption of Israel, if God did not intend for us to discuss these difficult issues with them? As Deuteronomy 11:19 says,

“And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”

Finally, I think it is important to go into a film like this with a sense of whether it is truthful, and, from the accounts I’ve read, it is predominantly so. While some controversy remains over the rather direct tying together of the Nicaraguan Contras and the explosion of inner-city black crack cocaine use, the raw truth of the story is there. The culpability of government for its actions is clear. And its actions were utterly corrupt.

“Kill the Messenger” tells the story decently.

Moral issues: This film contains a large amount of profanity, with some f-bombs and blasphemy. There is some drug use, a minor drinking alcohol and a slightly veiled pot smoking scene. The film contains no nudity, though there is one scene where the main character’s wife is in bed, covered, but apparently undressed. As for violence, there is little to none, save an outburst of anger and a gun shot.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy to extreme—“G*d-d*mn” (9), “Jesus” (2), OMG (2), “Oh J*sus,” “Oh for Chr*st's sakes,” “Oh Chr*st,” “For G*d’s sakes,” “Oh God” “God,” “hell” (4), “damn” (2), f-words (25+), s-words (20+), sexual slang words, SOB (3), *ss (3) / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

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