Leave it to Joel Schumacher, a populist filmmaker with a knack for oversimplifying complex subject matter, to turn Veronica Guerin into a piece of crude, bland hero worship. Guerin was a reporter for Ireland’s Sunday Independent who, after two years of writing about Dublin’s pervasive drug trade, was gunned down in 1996 by members of the gang she was investigating. Her bravery, born of an inescapable desire to affect change in her community, was laudable, and her story is ripe for an inspirational film. Yet Schumacher approaches his material with all the grace and subtlety of a sledgehammer, and what we get is not unlike an Irish version of Steven Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich.
Guerin was intent on combating the dealers peddling smack to Dublin’s youth, but the film’s black-and-white moral brushstrokes result in a dramatically inert tribute to a noble martyr. Guerin is, with the exception of two minor moments, always portrayed as firmly resolute in pursuit of the story, even after the possible deadly consequences of her actions become apparent. By not even daring to mildly denounce Guerin for her recklessness and selfishness—especially considering that part of her desire to bring down these narcotics kingpins stemmed from a love of the spotlight—the film becomes a stale and plodding attempt at lionization.
When she’s not exposing drug pushers, Guerin attempts to dispel stereotypes about women in the workplace; her boyish haircut, love of soccer, and professional bluntness lead fellow journalists to derisively insinuate that she’s too masculine for her own good. In fact, every peripheral journalist is depicted as a simpering coward or vile cretin, and their mockery of Guerin has the not-unintended effect of aligning journalists with the film’s criminals.
Despite the screenplay’s unfortunate dictum that Guerin be a flawless crusader, Cate Blanchett nonetheless turns in a convincingly human performance, and her interplay with Ciarán Hinds as Guerin’s arrogant but cowardly drug-ring contact John Traynor is riveting. For the most part, though, Schumacher is more interested in creating a legend than a realistic account of events, as evidenced by the film’s laughably hokey and naïve coda that leads us to believe that, as a result of Guerin’s efforts, drugs were forever banished from Dublin. Worse, his insipid, obvious direction telegraphs every plot twist, resulting in a movie-going experience where the audience figures things out long before the film’s valiant ace reporter does.
DTS surround tracks are still unfortunately rare, but more troublesome are the select films that are bestowed with them. Veronica Guerin gets the red carpet treatment in the audio department, with a Dolby Digital surround track and a DTS surround track that your home video system may or may not be equipped to handle. If it is, the Harry Gregson-Williams music and cracking syringes will pack quite a punch. As for the video: Shimmering is visible in spots and some interior sequences are on the soft side, but skin tones are remarkable and colors are quite vibrant.
First off are two commentary tracks. Though certainly engaging, Joel Schumacher spends the duration of his mostly anecdotal track backing up the facts. (Yes, there were indigent housing complexes where little kids played with syringes.) Far superior is the composite track with writers Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue, who seem to understand Veronica Guerin, and her importance to Ireland’s people, a little more than Schumacher does. Next up is “A Conversation with Producer Jerry Bruckheimer.” If you own Buena Vista’s Pirates of the Caribbean, then expect “A Conversation with Producer Jerry Bruckheimer” to play out like a mini commentary track. A deleted scene from the film featuring Blanchett’s Guerin at the Committee to Protect Journalists seems to exist solely as a point of comparison to footage of the real Guerin at the actual award ceremony. “Public Mask, Private Fears” is a rather standard making-of feature, notable only for Blanchett’s profound connection to the woman she plays in the film. Rounding out the disc are trailers for The Magdalene Sisters, Hope Springs, Calendar Girls and plugs for “Alias” and the Veronica Guerin soundtrack.
Why is Blanchett so red on the DVD cover? Is it because of all the blood on everyone’s hands, or is it because Guerin used to drive a red car? You decide.