REVIEW: Kill the Messenger (2014)

By Patricia Hului


“Some stories are just too true to tell.” Is there any story in the world that is too true to be told?

Apparently there is, according to the movie ‘Kill the Messenger’, a drama thriller directed by Michael Cuesta (‘Homeland’, ‘Dexter’) and written by Peter Landesman (‘Trade’, ‘Parkland’).

The film explores how real life journalist, the late Pulitzer-prize winning Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner who plays Hawkeye in ‘Avengers’) writes a three-part series in 1996 linking the CIA to the 1980s proliferation of crack cocaine in the United States and his personal and professional fallout from it.



Even though Renner is more well known for playing light action heroes, it is not a movie where you hope you and your date can snuggle up together because there are no scary or cringeworthy moments.

It is also not a movie you and your friend go, “Do you remember the part he went like…?”

It is a straightforward story of a journalist with wife and children to go home to, his path on discovering the biggest news of his career – that the CIA is secretly funding Nicaraguan Contra rebels – and how the publication of his expose backfires on him.

For non-journalists heading out to watch this movie, I hope it gives you a glimpse on how the world of news-reporting works and reminds you that behind every byline is a person with his or her own personal struggles.

The movie is based on Webb’s book ‘Dark Alliance’ and ‘Kill the Messenger: How the CIA’s Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb’ by Nick Schou.

Some have argued that Hollywood is trying to paint Webb as a journalist hero, which I disagree. He is depicted as neither hero nor villain in this movie. Renner’s portrayal of him is impressive and raw, passionate in his work, and yet still loving to his children.

Son Ian Webb was reported saying, “I feel like it depicts him very well. It really shows how serious he took his job and how important it was to never stop fighting for the truth. It really shows how loving of a father he was and how fun he was.”

However, throughout this movie Renner subtly shows Webb as imperfect and tense, on the verge of breakdown but not quite there yet.

Not bad Hawkeye.


Kill the Messenger Gary Webb played by Jeremy Renner.

Gary Webb played by Jeremy Renner. The Borneo Post SEEDS Screenshot Oct 21, 2014.


Also shout out to Lucas Hedges who plays Ian. In one of the scenes, Ian confronts Gary on his past infidelity to which he admits to.

Ian’s teary words to Gary, “I’m so disappointed with you” could break any father’s heart when a son says it like that.

After watching the whole movie, I think it could have been better as a documentary rather than a Hollywood film.

The movie is heavier on the informative side but lighter on the entertaining side.

I enjoyed it simply because I’m working in the line of journalism. I admire Webb’s courage and passion in pursuing his story. He is so eager to get it down on paper that he stretches his muscles before he sits down and writes.

(Not every journalist does that, but we do have our own pre-writing rituals which differ from one another such as a sip of steamy black coffee, a puff of smoke, or tuning into classical music…but no walking around and stretching for most of us, probably because we don’t have Renner’s muscles to stretch in the first place.)

Generally, any good, based-on-true-story movie should do justice to whom the film was based on.

Since Webb is not alive to see this movie – he was discovered dead in 2004, his death ruled a suicide – as long as his family is happy with it, then it is good enough for the rest of us.

After all Gary Webb was a real-life person, not a character Hollywood whipped out of thin air.

His story is true enough to tell.

My score? 4 out of 5.


Kill the Messenger (2014)
Director: Michael Cuesta
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Robert Patrick, Jena Sims.
Rating: 18
Running time: 112 minutes.

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