‘Kill the Messenger’ Retrospective and Review [Spoiler Alert]

'Kill the Messenger' Retrospective and Review
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Kill the Messenger

“Kill the Messenger” was a biography, crime, and drama film released on October 10, 2014, with a budget of only 5 million dollars. The movie was based on the book “Kill the Messenger” by Nick Schou and “Dark Alliance” by Gary Webb. The storyline reviews a journalist’s investigation of the origins of America’s war on Drugs

It starred the likes of well-known “Avengers” actor Jeremy Renner, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Michael K. Williams, and Andy Garcia. The movie was directed by American film director Michael Cuesta, who is well known for his work on movies such as “L.I.E.” and, most recently, “American Assassin.”

It centers around the real-life events of journalist Gary Webb who, in 1996, happens to stumble across a story that not only leads to the origins of America’s crack epidemic but also finds out that the CIA had a role with dealers who were smuggling cocaine into the U.S., and even aiding Nicaraguan rebels by arming them with weapons. However, when he decides to keep digging into his investigation while ignoring all warnings not to do so, his career, family, and life would soon be threatened.

When “Kill the Messenger” was released in theaters, the film only grossed 2.5 million dollars in the United States and Canada while grossing another 4.2 million in other countries, ultimately resulting in the film bringing in only a total of 6.7 million dollars at the box office worldwide, which was a financial flop.

Despite the film’s failure at the box office, many reviewers and critics have praised “Kill the Messenger” for showing the lengths that a journalist will go to, if ever in this position, Renner’s amazing portrayal of the determined and courageous Webb. “Kill the Messenger” is both engaging and well structured. The movie scored 77 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, a 6.9 out of 10 on IMDb, and a 2.5 out of 4 on Rolling Stone.

“Kill the Messenger” begins in 1996, with the San Jose Mercury News reporter Webb, played by Renner, who is interviewing drug dealer Ronny Quail. The dealer is furious at the government for using the civil asset feature to keep his house even after he was acquitted.

Webb’s ensuing article about the abuses of forfeiture catches the attention of a woman named Coral Baca, played by Paz Vega, who has repeatedly called him. When he finally agrees to meet her in person, she tells him that she has documents that prove the government-sponsored cocaine sales in the U.S.

She then gives him a transcript of grand jury testimony, which was accidentally released (during discovery) to her boyfriend, the defendant, and accused drug dealer. When Webb decides to reveal he has the transcripts, the prosecutor in the case reveals that he has the transcript, immediately drops the charges against Coral’s boyfriend dropped by the government since they wanted to protect their main witness — Oscar Danilo Blandon.

Once Webb finishes his research on Blandon, he then comes across the pending case of “Freeway” Rick Ross and is surprised when he finds out that Blandon is actually a paid informant. With this knowledge in mind, he travels to a prison in Managua and has a chat with Blandon’s partner, Norwin Meneses, played by Andy Garcia. He learns that Oliver North’s involvement in the basic “drugs for guns” scheme uses profits from cocaine trafficking to fund the Contras.

Webb then decides to go Washington, D.C., where he tracks down Fred Weil, a National Security Council employee who was an investigator on the Kerry Committee report. The document was related to the same issues, and Weil, like many others, had warned him that this subject might put him and his family’s lives in danger. The federal agent summoned Webb afterward for a meeting to warn him against publishing the information he had learned.

Kill the MessengerWebb ultimately decides to publish his story as a three-part series, titling it “Dark Alliance;” it is an immediate sensation. However, he was humiliated by being scooped by regional papers, the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and The New York Times digging into his report.

Webb sees this as them being far too deferential to the CIA. Eventually, the report turns to Webb himself, which included an affair he had while working at the Plain Dealer.

He was then banished to the newspaper’s Cupertino bureau to cover mundane local news but secretly continued his work on the story. One night, however, he is awakened in his motel room by John Cullen, played by Ray Liotta, the CIA source who had direct knowledge of his reporting needs.

But when he tells everyone about Cullen, the paper reveals that they plan to write an open letter claiming Webb’s reporting was either questionable or false. Naturally, this upsets Webb, but ultimately, he had no choice but to go with the idea, despite knowing that all of his hard work and findings were all for nothing in the end.

“Kill the Messenger” ends at a Society of Professional Journalists dinner honoring Webb as the Bay Area “Journalist of the Year,” where he submits his resignation to his editor. The scene cuts to the epilogue, revealing that in 2004, Webb was found dead in his apartment by two gunshots in the head, and it was concluded that his death was caused by suicide.

As to what I thought of “Kill the Messenger” overall, it was engaging and fun for the most part. Renner, who, in my opinion, was easily being the best part of the whole movie. I appreciate that the film shows how far people are willing to prove that they are telling the truth. The problem I had was that “Kill the Messenger” could be a bit slow at times, and I was not really a fan of the actors who played Webb’s children. In my opinion, kids actors, for the most part, are not really good at acting. I would give the film an 8 out of 10.

Written by Ramses Sanchez Cantu
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware


IMDb: Kill the Messenger
Focus Features: Kill the Messenger, October 10, 2014

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Sue Lukenbaugh’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Chris Eason’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


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