Kill The Messenger Film Review

Jeremy Renner Riveting in True Tale as Intrepid Investigative Journalist

In August 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published an eye-opening expose that many people did not believe. The story detailed exactly how the Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated the importation of crack cocaine from Nicaragua as well as its distribution in the black community of South Central Los Angeles.

The story was written by investigative journalist Gary Webb, played by Jeremy Renner. It was a 20,000-word series called “Dark Alliance.” The information was incendiary, and Webb risked his life to acquire and release it.

The story involved the Contras, the Nicaraguan rebels attempting to topple the government of Nicaragua.

While conducting his research, Webb had been contacted by a CIA operative who tried to intimidate him into killing the story. The CIA was so determined to suppress any facts that might shed light on their covert dealings with the Contras, that Webb was asked “Do you have a family?”

But Webb, already a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, would not be intimidated and went with the piece. Webb had already supported his shocking allegations with declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA Establishment secretly enlisted the assistance of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the L.A. Times to discredit him.

kill the messenger
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.

The three prominent newspapers pooh-poohed the idea that the CIA could possibly be behind the dissemination of crack in the inner-city. Nevertheless, “Dark Alliance” became the biggest story of the year, especially among African-Americans, many of whom surfed the internet for the first time in order to read the damning report.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) took to the floor to warn that “Somebody’s going to have to pay for what they have done to my people.” Yet, the revelations seemed to take the greatest toll on Gary Webb, who lost his good name, his job, his career, his home, and even the love of his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt ) in due course.

This shameful chapter in American history is the subject of Kill the Messenger, a sobering biopic directed by Michael Cuesta and starring Jeremy Renner. The film features an A-list cast also including Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Tim Blake Nelson, Andy Garcia, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Robert Patrick and Paz Vega.

However, make no mistake, this riveting thriller is a Renner vehicle, and the two-time Academy Award-nominee (for The Hurt Locker and The Town) delivers another Oscar-quality performance as a family man/respected writer slowly turned into a paranoid soul haunted by demons and hunted by Machiavellian mercenaries drunk with power.

A cautionary tale about what might easily transpire whenever the Fourth Estate is willing to serve as the Fifth Column rather than as a government watchdog.

Kill the Messenger

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity and drug use

Running time: 112 minutes

Distributor: Focus Features

See a trailer for Kill the Messenger:

Kam Williams is a popular and top NewsBlaze reviewer, our chief critic. Kam gives his unvarnished opinion on movies, DVDs and books, plus many in-depth and revealing celebrity interviews.

Sadly, Lloyd Kam Williams passed away in 2019, leaving behind a huge body of work focused on America’s black entertainment community. We were as sad to hear of his passing as we were overjoyed to have him as part of our team.