Veronica Guerin

Veronica Guerin


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A journalist dies in the line of duty. It happens more often than you might think; 189 since Veronica Guerin was murdered, so they tell us. That figure must have increased since then, especially if you take what used to be called the Eastern Bloc into account. Where Mafia and drug barons rule, investigators of any kind become targets. Suddenly, truth has a value and the search for it a price.

This is the second film to be made of the Guerin story, since her death in 1996. The first, a fictionalised reconstruction, When The Sky Falls, had the American actress Joan Allen in the lead. She was excellent. The Australian, Cate Blanchett, is less convincing, possibly because she is more glamorous and manipulative.

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Director Joel Schumacher is subdued, compared with his last outing, Phone Booth, as if afraid to turn the whole thing into a New York-style gangster flick, when it should be about her, this ex-accountant, mother and wife, who writes a column in a Dublin Sunday newspaper, exposing criminals and naming names. There are too many scenes of domestic bliss, with young son and supportive husband, which have no purpose other than to clothe the character with a family and a parallel life.

Hollywood movies - this is a Hollywood movie - are not good about work. Journalists never seem to go the office, or have deadlines. They swan around for weeks on a single story, like a private eye, never filing copy on a daily basis. It's a little bit better here, but not much. Guerin, as played by Blanchett, seems naive, rather than cynical, which is the occupational disease of the profession. She accepts the word of gangsters and is blatantly used by them and when she enters the lion's den to face the big man himself, a seriously nasty piece of criminal scum by the name of John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley), it is either an act of exceptional bravery, or sheer stupidity. She relies on sex appeal to charm information out of these hard men. It doesn't always succeed.

Guerin was an investigative journalist, who attempted to discover the facts behind an escalating drugs problem in Dublin during the mid-Nineties. She had enough warnings - bullets fired through her window, an attempted murder, a vicious beating - which she ignored. The film is objective, violent, cold. You don't understand the workings of this woman's mind. She must have understood the dangers. Did she feel that her fame - she was well known in Ireland - would protect her? Was she so confidant in her own crusade that the psychos she exposed would lay down their arms and come quietly?

"That's the thing about you," her mother (Brenda Fricker) says. "You don't show your fear. Sometimes it's braver to just walk away."

She doesn't walk away. She is driven, obsessive, a workaholic. Such people are difficult to live with. Not Blanchett.

"You're a dangerous little bitch," John 'The Coach' Traynor (Ciaran Hinds) growls.

"I do my best," she retorts, with a dazzling smile.

Is this the way it was? Flirting with the enemy?

Reviewed on: 31 Jul 2003
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True story of an Irish journalist who was assassinated.
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Director: Joel Schumacher

Writer: Carol Doyle, Mary Agnes Donoghue

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorley, Ciaran Hinds, Brenda Fricker, Don Wycherley, Alan Devlin, E

Year: 2003

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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If you like this, try:

A Mighty Heart
When The Sky Falls