Kill the Messenger (2014 film)

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Kill the Messenger
Kill the Messenger poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Cuesta
Produced by
Written by Peter Landesman
Based on Kill the Messenger
by Nick Schou
Dark Alliance
by Gary Webb
Music by Nathan Johnson
Cinematography Sean Bobbitt
Edited by Brian A. Kates
  • Bluegrass Films
  • The Combine
Distributed by Focus Features
Release date
  • October 10, 2014 (2014-10-10)
Running time
112 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5 million[2]
Box office $2.5 million[3]

Kill the Messenger is a 2014 American biographical 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.[4]


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.[5]



On March 5, 2014, Focus Features announced that the film would be released on October 10, 2014.[4]


Principal photography began on July 16, 2013 in several Georgia locations, including Atlanta, Cobb County and Decatur.[6][7]


Nathan Johnson composed the score for the film,[8] and Back Lot Music release a soundtrack album on October 7, 2014.[9]


Kill the Messenger received a regional theatrical release on October 10, 2014.[4][10]

Critical reception[edit]

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."[11] On Metacritic, the film currently has a rating of 60 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[12]

Controversy over film distribution[edit]

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, entitled "Focus Features: Support Gary Webb and Re-Release Kill the Messenger in Theaters." [13] 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.[14] 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.[13][14] 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).[14][15]

The petition picked up a strong momentum through social media, accruing over 2,000 signatures in less than two weeks. [16][17][18] The weekend of December 5, Focus Features expanded Kill the Messenger to 19 additional theaters, for a sum of 27 theaters overall.[13] 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.[19] 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.[20]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awarding Body Category Recipients Result
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 [21] 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 [22] 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 [23] Pillar Award for Best Whistle Blower Film Michael Cuesta Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "KILL THE MESSENGER (15)". British Board of Film Classification. February 10, 2015. Retrieved February 10, 2015. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Kill the Messenger (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Cunningham, Todd (5 March 2014). "Jeremy Renner's 'Kill the Messenger' Gets Fall Release Date". Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Jeremy Renner movie, 'Kill the Messenger', filming in Decatur, GA". 16 July 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  7. ^ ""Kill The Messenger" films in east Cobb and downtown". July 16, 2013. Archived from the original on July 18, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Nathan Johnson Scoring 'Kill the Messenger'". March 31, 2014. Retrieved October 31, 2014. 
  9. ^ "'Kill the Messenger' Soundtrack Details". October 6, 2014. Retrieved October 31, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Kill the Messenger, Starring Jeremy Renner, is Coming in October". March 5, 2014. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Kill the Messenger". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved November 9, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Kill the Messenger Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 11, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c "Kill the Messenger 2014". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 24, 2015. 
  14. ^ a b c "Kill the Messenger TV Movie Trailer". Retrieved December 24, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Theory of Everything TV Movie Trailer". Retrieved December 24, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Kill the Messenger Twitter". Twitter. November 24, 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Gary Webb Has Been Suppressed AGAIN!!! Help Petition Focus Features to Stop Burying his "Kill the Messenger" Biopic!". Reddit. November 26, 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2015. 
  19. ^ "From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: Kill The Messenger". PRNewswire. December 11, 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2015. 
  20. ^ "TOP 10 MOST PIRATED MOVIES OF THE WEEK – 02/02/15". Torrent Freak. February 2, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015. 
  21. ^ "The Anti-Oscars 2014: The James Agee Cinema Cinema Circle Awards". James Agee Cinema Circle. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  22. ^ "2015 Golden Trailer Awards Winners Revealed". slashFilm. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  23. ^ "Whistle Blower Summit for Civil & Human Rights". Whistle Blower Summit for Civil & Human Rights. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 

External links[edit]