Kill the Messenger (2014 film)
|Kill the Messenger|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Cuesta|
|Written by||Peter Landesman|
|Based on||Kill the Messenger
by Nick Schou
by Gary Webb
|Music by||Nathan Johnson|
|Edited by||Brian A. Kates|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$2.5 million|
Kill the Messenger is a 2014 American crime thriller film directed by Michael Cuesta and written by Peter Landesman. It is based on the book of the same name by Nick Schou and the book Dark Alliance by Gary Webb, which focuses on CIA involvement in Contra cocaine trafficking. The film stars Jeremy Renner in his first film as a producer. The film was released on October 10, 2014.
Based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb, the film takes place in the mid-1990s. Webb uncovered the CIA's alleged role in importing cocaine into the U.S. to secretly fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels through the manufacture and sale of crack. Despite enormous pressure to stay away, Webb chose to pursue the story and went public with his evidence, publishing the series called "Dark Alliance". He then experienced a vicious smear campaign fueled by the CIA, during which he found himself defending his integrity, his family, and his life.
- Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb
- Rosemarie DeWitt as Susan Webb
- Ray Liotta as John Cullen
- Tim Blake Nelson as Alan Fenster
- Barry Pepper as Russell Dodson
- Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Anna Simons
- Paz Vega as Coral Baca
- Oliver Platt as Jerry Ceppos
- Michael Sheen as Fred Weil
- Richard Schiff as Walter Pincus
- Andy García as Norwin Meneses
- Robert Patrick as Ronny Quail
- Michael K. Williams as "Freeway" Rick Ross
- Jena Sims as Little Hottie
- Joshua Close as Rich Kline
- Yul Vazquez as Danilo Blandon
- Robert Pralgo as Sheriff Nelson
- Lucas Hedges as Ian Webb
- Michael Rose as Jonathan Yarnold
- Matthew Lintz as Eric Webb
- Michael H. Cole as Pete Carey
- David Lee Garver as Douglas Farah
- Andrew Masset as Johnathan Krim
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The film has received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a "Certified Fresh" rating of 77%, based on 118 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10. The site's consensus reads, "Kill the Messenger's potent fury over the tale of its real-life subject overrides its factual inaccuracies and occasional narrative stumbles." On Metacritic, the film currently has a rating of 60 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Controversy over film distribution
Several weeks after the Kill the Messenger premiere, the significant lack of advertising for the film and its rapid retraction from theaters led to the creation of a petition to re-release the film in theaters on November 24, 2014 through Change.org, entitled "Focus Features: Support Gary Webb and Re-Release Kill the Messenger in Theaters."  This petition was also spurred on after Focus Features failed to attend a private screening for the film hosted by the Writers Guild of America in mid-November, despite positive reviews for the film. Through the petition and direct appeals to Focus Features, attention was drawn to the fact that the film distribution company aired more national television commercials for Kill the Messenger six weeks after the premiere date than they did before the film was released in theaters, and almost exclusively outside of primetime hours and off of major broadcasting companies. As a result of this marketing campaign, the highest domestic television coverage for Kill the Messenger occurred when it had been retracted from all but 18 theaters in the United States and three weeks before its theatrical run was ended. Attention was also drawn to the large discrepancy in the amount of television advertising that Focus Features gave to each of its fall releases, specifically between Kill the Messenger, which was given a total of 448 national advertisements, to Theory of Everything which was nationally aired 3,046 times and largely on major television networks (i.e., ABC, NBC, CBS, MTV).
The petition picked up a strong momentum through social media, accruing over 2,000 signatures in less than two weeks.  The weekend of December 5, Focus Features expanded Kill the Messenger to 19 additional theaters, for a sum of 27 theaters overall. On December 11, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment announced the DVD release date for Kill the Messenger, several days before the petition reached 2,500 signatures. In early February, Kill the Messenger was leaked online, and was reportedly among the top ten films with the most unauthorized downloads for several weeks.
Awards and Nominations
|2014||Women Film Critics Circle||Best Actor||Jeremy Renner||Nominated|
|Best Male Images in a Movie||Jeremy Renner, Barry Pepper, Andy Garcia, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael Kenneth Williams, Robert Patrick, Michael Sheen, Oliver Platt, Lucas Hedges, Josh Close, Ray Liotta||Nominated|
|2014||Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association||Joe Barber Award-Best Portrayal of Washington D.C.||Michael Cuesta, Jeremy Renner, Don Handfield, Peter Landesman, Michael Bederman, Sean Babbit||Nominated|
|2014||James Agee Cinema Circle ||Best Progressive Picture||Michael Cuesta, The Combine||Won|
|Robeson Award||Michael Cuesta, The Combine||Won|
|Best Actor||Jeremy Renner||Won|
|2015||Georgia Film Critics Association||Oglethorpe Award for Excellence in Georgia Cinema||Michael Cuesta, Peter Landesman||Won|
|2015||Golden Trailer Awards ||Most Original Poster||Focus Features, Ignition||Won|
|2015||Traverse City Film Festival||Best American Film||Michael Cuesta||Won|
|2015||Whistle Blower Summit for Civil & Human Rights ||Pillar Award for Best Whistle Blower Film||Michael Cuesta||Won|
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