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Kill the Messenger | 2014 | R | - 3.5.7

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (Jeremy Renner) discovers significant facts about the 1980s American crack cocaine epidemic and all signs point to the CIA using drug money to finance the Contra rebellion in Nicaragua during the Reagan Administration. As he ignores warnings from the CIA and the mob, he digs up a conspiracy that endangers the lives of his family and himself. Also with Barry Pepper, Robert Patrick, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Paz Vega, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Michael K. Williams, Ray Liotta and Andy Garcia. Directed by Michael Cuesta. [1:52]

SEX/NUDITY 3 - A woman sits on the same side of a booth in a diner with a reporter, leans close, whispers and pushes her bosom against him, inviting him to her house; he declines, she kisses him on one cheek and leaves (he rubs the lipstick from his face). A husband and his wife kiss each other on the cheek a few times and briefly on the lips in two scenes.
 A shirtless man lies in bed with his wife, holding hands over the covers; we see her bare arms and hands and his bare chest. A woman wears a miniskirt and blouse with a deeply cut neckline that reveals a large amount of cleavage and most of her bare legs to the thighs; she wiggles her hips as she walks away from the camera. A housing project scene depicts dozens of scantily clad women wearing short-shorts and tank tops that reveal bare legs and some cleavage. Three women wearing sleeveless sundresses that expose cleavage. A woman is shown wearing a knee-length dress with a V-neckline in front and back that reveals cleavage. At a pond and in a pool some boys are shirtless. In a prison yard some men are shirtless; some are seen to have indistinct tattoos.
 A man tells his teen son that he had an affair with a female reporter and the woman died by suicide; he says he loves his wife and family and feels having an affair was a mistake. A man's teenage sons say, "She's cool! She's hot!" about a woman that left documents at his house; the man's wife asks who the woman is, the husband and his wife argue about the woman and then kisses briefly. A man tells a reporter that he slept with pretty radicals. A wife tells her husband that she can't take another "Cleveland" (implication of infidelity).


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VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - A montage of footage from the 70s and 80s features several war scenes in Central America interspersed with government comments, including President Nixon saying, "Public Enemy Number One is drug abuse," Nancy Reagan stating, "When it comes to drugs, just say no," and President Reagan saying, "Drugs are killing our children. Drug suppliers are as dangerous as terrorists"; a TV reporter says that President Reagan declared he would end drug abuse in America and we see soldiers marching with automatic rifles, flashes of light as a missile strikes a tank and smoke from other weapons; interspersed are images of a man using a bong pipe (please see the Substance Use category for more details), a dead man in a Los Angeles street with his head covered by a large, bloody cloth and many African-American men being arrested.
 At a home a reporter interviews a man (a drug dealer), police raid the house and arrest the drug dealer and the reporter, shouting, pointing guns, cursing and slamming people over a short wall to handcuff them (we see the reporter later with a bandaged hand). Two men visit a cabin in Nicaragua filled with thick bundles of $100-bills from drug sales in the USA; two trucks with armed men in camouflage drive up, shooting into the air and forcing the two men to leave. A man is kidnapped and we see no more of him. A man keeps a loaded pistol in a drawer or on top of his nightstand and when he sees a shadow by his car outside one night he takes the gun to the driveway to protect his wife and children; the person runs away and he cannot catch him.
 A prisoner in a Nicaraguan prison wears an eye patch, suggesting a violent injury. A housing project shows a lot of debris, old cars and old couches sitting outdoors while graffiti on walls is largely illegible; a man in a car tells his passenger not to leave the car, because it is dangerous and the man exits anyway, looks around, and then gets back into the car. We see a montage of cocaine shipments from Central America to the US, a one-kilo bag bursting open on a tabletop and stacks of kilos of white powder stacked neatly in a warehouse.
 A criminal attorney shouts when he learns that a drug supplier is a US government informant and he elicits testimony in court from the supplier that he was working with the CIA, sending cocaine to California and other states to sell on the streets, the proceeds from which purchased arms for the anti-Communist Contras; the prosecuting attorney objects loudly several times and the judge overrules him angrily. An impatient man shouts at his family and coworkers a few times and slams his hand into a tabletop, often using obscenities; in one scene, he tells his teen son to hit any intruders to his home office with a hockey stick; in another scene in which he discovers his motorcycle is stolen, he pounds the top of his car in anger and punches through the passenger side window (we see his knuckles covered in blood and later, his hand is wrapped in bandages). A man's teen son shouts from inside his house and the family enters the man's office to find men rifling through everything; the homeowner shouts, demanding they leave and the intruders silently exit and drive away.
 A drug supplier in a Nicaraguan prison tells a reporter that a five-iron golf club can kill a man, if used properly; he then tells the reporter that he must decide whether or not to share trafficking information with the public, because of the danger to the reporter's family. An official alerts a man that "We would never hurt your family" and the man says that he will not be intimidated and will report about the US drug epidemic and the CIA connection. We hear that a drug supplier in the area is a paid US government informant. A reporter informs his boss that "One of the DEA's most wanted is not only not in jail for eternity, but is apparently on the government payroll, admitting in open court that he brought in thousands of kilos of cocaine to the US every day, for them." An official tells a reporter that a US Senator received a call on the Senate floor threatening that if he should share information about the drugs-for-guns program, he would die. A reporter puts information on a web page called "Dark Alliances." We hear that seven years after resigning his last newspaper position, authorities found a crime reporter dead in his apartment with two gunshot wounds to the head and authorities ruled his death a suicide. An official orders three major US newspapers to discredit a reporter who writes about the CIA-Contra connection; one paper's editor assigns nearly two dozen reporters to attack the first reporter in the press, because the major paper's editor did not like being scooped on the drug story by a smaller newspaper; the reporter who broke the story appears on many news interview shows to defend his story, while the major papers accuse him of fraud and his own editor sends the reporter to work in a small suburb, writing human-interest stories. A husband argues with his wife and children and takes a small motel room in the suburb. A man appears in a motel room at night where another man is sleeping with a gun on his nightstand; the sleeping man awakes and the other man sits down, says he played a major role in beginning the drug trafficking campaign from Nicaragua that funded the Contras' rebellion. A reporter wins a Journalist of the Year award and speaks to banquet attendees about his last story, the death of a constipated horse; he chokes up and says he always believed he should report the truth and let the public decide what they think, then states that the American news system is also "horse [scatological term deleted]" and walks out of the room, followed by his wife and teen son. A woman says that a prosecutor in a case is a "little bitch" and that she once had him arrested for hanging around her house. Captions read that the CIA Inspector General in a 400-page report in 1998 found that White House officials knew about and supported drug trafficking to fund the Contras, failing to pass related information to the Drug Enforcement Administration. A man jokingly tells another man that his (second man's) wife will cut off his (anatomical term deleted) while he sleeps.
 At a home BBQ, on a garage wall, we see a large Metallica logo with large skull and wound bandages underneath it along with some red paint that probably represents blood.
 We see a close-up of a man's profile and hear a zipper closing as the man moves away from a wall (urinal use implied).


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LANGUAGE 7 - About 28 F-words and its derivatives, 19 scatological terms, 5 anatomical terms, 13 mild obscenities, name-calling (crazy, stupid, nuts, snitch, scumbag, lowlifes, losers, pedophiles, circus sideshow), stereotypical references to newspaper editors, reporters, wives, teenagers, CIA's men in black, Hispanics, African-Americans, drug suppliers, drug dealers, US Presidents, 8 religious profanities (GD), 10 religious exclamations (e.g. Oh My God, Ah Christ, God, Holy [scatological term deleted], Oh God, Jesus, For God's Sake, Oh Lord).


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SUBSTANCE USE - An opening montage includes a man free-basing cocaine and smoking it, a man smokes crack from a long crack pipe, a hand from off-screen stirs liquid that becomes rock-hard and dumps it out as crack cocaine onto a scale, a close-up shows a man smoking a marijuana cigarette, a man smokes marijuana at home and in another scene, a husband and his wife each take a puff or two from a marijuana cigarette, a man smokes a marijuana cigarette on a motel balcony, men and women smoke on a littered street in a project (by the way they hold the cigarettes, it is implied that they are marijuana- or crack-filled), an older woman hands a man folded money at his door and he hands her something small (possibly drugs), a journalist uncovers a story involving drugs and the CIA (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details), a document is titled "Danilo Brand Cocaine Distribution Network" and lists many major cities, a drug dealer says about selling crack cocaine that he "couldn't sell it fast enough to keep up with the supply" (a million dollars wholesale product daily), a 1996 Internet page reports that a CIA supported drug-for-guns program sold crack cocaine to the Crips and Bloods in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a webpage logo is the CIA logo with an overlay of a hand holding a crack pipe. A man drinks a bottle of beer in his backyard, a woman carries a bottle of beer in her house, a man drinks whiskey from a short glass in a motel room while a bottle of whiskey sits on his nightstand, a husband and his wife pop open a bottle of champagne and we see two filled glasses but no one drunks, and glasses of wine are seen on banquet tables but no one drinks. A man smokes a cigarette at home and in a motel room in a few scenes.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Government corruption, drug cartels, the CIA-Contra scandal, Iran-Contra scandal, Oliver North, the Boland Amendment, President Ronald Reagan, President Bill Clinton, US participation in foreign wars, danger, abandonment, fidelity, loyalty, courage, making choices, standing by convictions, determination, protecting one's family, suicide.

MESSAGE - Reporting to the public about illegal activities can be dangerous and requires courage.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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