[Screen It]


(1999) (Al Pacino, Russell Crowe) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Mild Heavy Moderate Moderate
Mild None Heavy None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
None Minor Heavy Moderate *Mild

Drama: A "60 Minutes" producer tries to air an exposť on the tobacco industry while helping a reluctant, former tobacco company executive in his quest to tell the truth about his former employer's business practices.
Jeffrey Wigand (RUSSELL CROWE) has just been fired from his job at Brown & Williamson, the nation's third largest cigarette manufacturer, by its chairman, Thomas Sandefur (MICHAEL GAMBON), for blowing the whistle on some of their questionable business and research practices.

Lowell Bergman (AL PACINO) is an ambitious producer for the CBS news program, "60 Minutes." Having worked with journalist Mike Wallace (CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER) for fourteen years, Bergman is the best at what he does. When he receives a package concerning product safety studies at another tobacco company, Bergman contacts Wigand, hoping to hire him as a temporary consultant for a possible "60 Minutes" segment.

Wigand is reluctant, however, since such activity would violate a confidentiality agreement he signed with B&W. Doing so would thus jeopardize his severance package that currently provides for him, his wife Liane (DIANE VENORA), and their two young girls, Barbara (HALLIE KATE EISENBERG) and Deborah (RENEE OLSTEAD), the latter of whom needs medical insurance to cover her severe asthma.

When Sandefur threatens to cut off Wigand's severance package if he doesn't sign a completely restrictive supplement to the confidentiality agreement, the former Vice President of research loses his cool, storms out and contacts Bergman, telling him he'll do his story. However, the seasoned producer, sensing far more of a story with Wigand, decides to pursue whatever he knows that's making the B&W executives so nervous.

Taping an interview with Wallace, Wigand details information that might seriously damage not only B&W, but the other tobacco giants as well. Sensing this and in retaliation, they start putting pressure on him by attempting to dig up any past secrets, smear his name and reputation, or simply intimidate him into stopping.

As the stakes increase and Wigand testifies in court against the tobacco industry for Mississippi activists Richard Scruggs (COLM FEORE) and Ron Motley (BRUCE McGILL), he finds his life quickly unraveling with his wife starting to succumb to the unrelenting stress.

At the same time, Bergman suddenly finds his story in danger of not being aired. Meeting with "60 Minutes" executive producer Don Hewitt (PHILIP BAKER HALL), and CBS corporate executives Eric Kluster (STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY) and Helen Caperelli (GINA GERSHON), Bergman discovers that the network could be sued for helping break Wigand's confidentiality agreement. With pressure mounting from all sides, Bergman does what he can to make sure his story airs while Wigand must decide how far he's willing to go to tell the truth.

If they're fans of anyone in the cast, of director Michael Mann ("Heat"), or of serious dramatic works, they just might (but it seems that the only likely audience among kids is older teens).
For language.
  • AL PACINO plays a "60 Minutes" segment producer who nearly always gets and produces what he wants. When he finds his story in danger of not being aired, however, he does what he can to make sure it is. Along the way he uses strong profanity.
  • RUSSELL CROW plays a tobacco executive who decided he had to blow the whistle on his company for their unconscionable behavior and business practices. In doing so he risks everything precious to him and uses strong profanity.
  • CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER plays "60 Minutes" journalist Mike Wallace who also uses strong profanity.
  • DIANE VENORA plays Wigand's wife who can't take the pressure and stress anymore, and thus takes their kids and leaves.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity is extreme with at least 35 "f" words being used, while other profanities and colorful phrases are also present. Individuals or institutions display bad attitudes by their behavior that includes trying to intimidate and/or ruin the reputation of a whistle blower, while a news organization caves in to pressure from above.

    Some viewers may find a few related scenes to be a bit suspenseful. We see a recently murdered man (shot to death and a bit bloody) and people in other scenes carrying weapons, but no onscreen violence occurs.

    Beyond that, a marriage/family crumbling under the stress of the situation and a moderate amount of drinking, the film's other categories are relatively void of any other major objectionable content. While it's doubtful that this film will appeal to any kids other than older teens, should you still be concerned about its appropriateness for them, yourself, or anyone else in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed content listings.

  • Wigand has a drink upon arriving home after having just been fired.
  • We see an open bottle of wine on the table as Wigand and his family have dinner.
  • When listing his faults, Wigand states he drinks and occasionally did more than he should have.
  • Bergman, Wallace, Wigand and his wife have wine with dinner.
  • Wigand has a drink.
  • Bergman and Wigand have drinks.
  • Wigand has a drink.
  • People have drinks in a bar.
  • Don has a drink.
  • People have drinks in an airport bar and Bergman has a beer.
  • We briefly see a murder victim lying on the street with some blood running from him and a bloody bullet hole in his clothing.
  • Wigand's employer has both not only for firing him for being a whistle blower, but also for trying to intimidate him (and his family's well being) and/or ruin his name and reputation later on (not to mention manufacturing cigarettes and consciously ignoring health concerns).
  • We hear allegations that Wigand shoplifted and failed to pay child support in the past, but we never learn if these are true. He does admit, however, to pushing his wife once while under stress.
  • Some local FBI agents have both toward Wigand and his family by being mean to them and taking their property (we learn that they're possibly working for the tobacco company).
  • We learn that Wigand hadn't told his wife he was going to do the TV interview (although he already knew he was).
  • To avoid a lawsuit and potential sale of the company, the CBS executives try to kill (or at minimum alter) Bergman's segment.
  • Some viewers may find the opening scene where Bergman is blindfolded and escorted by armed men into a room as a little suspenseful (but it turns out he's just going there to set up an interview).
  • Wigand rushes in as his daughter has a severe asthma attack.
  • Wigand notices a lone man trailing his moves at night (while some suspenseful/ominous music lightly plays).
  • After Wigand's daughter tells him she heard someone outside their home at night, he retrieves his handgun and slowly makes his way through their backyard, nearly shooting a raccoon.
  • Wigand's wife reads an email message that states that the author is going to kill her and her family and Wigand finds a single bullet (as a warning) in his mailbox.
  • Upon arriving home, Wigand sees some mysterious men hanging around his house at night and races inside to make sure his family is all right (the men turn out to be bodyguards).
  • We see soldiers/bodyguards carrying machine guns in several early scenes.
  • Handguns: Seen in Wigand's locked safe, with him taking one while searching his backyard at night.
  • Unseen weapon: Used to kill a man (not seen, although we see his dead and somewhat bloody body).
  • Handguns/Automatic weapons: Carried by police to protect Wigand.
  • Phrases: "F*ck off," "Give me a f*cking break," "Wake the f*ck up," "Shut the f*ck up" (seen on a computer screen), "Sh*tload," "D*cking around," "Hell's bells," "Screwed" and "Screwing" (both nonsexual), "Pissed off" and "Screw up."
  • To intimidate Wigand, someone puts a lone bullet in his mailbox.
  • None.
  • A heavy amount of ominous music plays throughout much of the film (even when nothing ominous is occurring).
  • None.
  • At least 35 "f" words, 10 "s" words, 1 slang term using male genitals ("d*cking"), 1 slang term for breasts ("t*t"), 18 hells, 4 asses (2 used with "hole"), 3 damns, 1 crap and 2 uses of "For God's sakes" and 1 use each of "G-damn" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • None.
  • A handful of miscellaneous characters smoke in a few scenes.
  • Wigand's marriage already seems a bit shaky as the story begins and only gets worse as the pressure of the situation takes its toll on their relationship. When she learns that he's going to do the TV interview, she runs off (he hadn't told her despite knowing he was going to do it). The introduction of bodyguards into their house and lives adds even more stress. Eventually, Wigand comes home to find that his wife has left, taken the kids and filed for a divorce.
  • Bergman briefly mentions that his father left when he was five years old.
  • The historical accuracy of and/or artistic license taken in telling the story.
  • The tobacco industry.
  • The news reporting industry.
  • The fact that Wigand risked everything to tell the truth and suffered greatly because of it (and how that's wrong).
  • We briefly see a murder victim who's been killed (we don't see the act, but just the results of it in the form of the somewhat bloody body).

  • Reviewed October 28, 1999 / Posted November 5, 1999

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