When The Sky Falls

When The Sky Falls


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Crime reporters have a charmed life. Villains find they have their uses. Assassination is definitely last resort, causing media frenzy, which stirs up a hornet's nest of protest, resulting in crack downs and the wrong kind of publicity. The shock feels personal.

It happened to Veronica Guerin, who was investigating Dublin's underworld when she was gunned down in her car. Here she is called Sinead Hamilton and played by the American actress, Joan Allen. John Mackenzie, who made the neo-classic Brit mobster movie, The Long Good Friday, 21 years ago, directs with a similar degree of commitment.

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The film shows a different aspect of the Irish character, a far cry from Waking Ned. These hoodlums are ruthless, unschooled in restraint and cold blooded. They wouldn't recognise blarney if it floated face up in a sewage pit.

The cops are no better. Mackie (Patrick Bergin), the chief detective, is a cynical brute who bends the law to suit himself. There is much talk of Dublin, swimming in degradation. The Garda is undermanned, ill-equipped and losing the battle. Hamilton uses charm and guile to extract information from men she does not trust. She's out of her depth and knows it. "Being half ignorant is too much of a compliment for any journalist." she is told.

For once, this is not a film that slavishly copies America. The choreography of violence is more natural and ugly. The bad guys don't look Italian and Hamilton's home life may have sentimental moments - too many, in fact - but no one bakes apple pie.

Bergin has been lost in low grade straight-to-vid product since hitting Hollywood as a leading man all those years ago. Perhaps, being nasty to Julia Roberts in Sleeping With The Enemy was a bad move. Here, it's allowed. He relishes the role of tough cop and looks all the better for it. The casting of Allen is inspired. She is a wonderful actress in unsympathic parts, often introspective and tight lipped (Kevin Klein's bitter half in The Ice Storm, Pat in Nixon), or secretly desperate (Pleasantville). As a wife and mother who juggles family with career, she has never been so normal. Or so attractive.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Fictionalised retelling of the life and assassination of Irish crime reporter Veronica Guerin.
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Director: John Mackenzie

Writer: Ronan Gallagher, Colum McCann, Michael Sheridan

Starring: Joan Allen, Patrick Bergin, Liam Cunningham, John O'Connor, Pete Postlethwaite, Owen Roe

Year: 1999

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK/Ireland


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