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 Erin Brockovich. Guerin was a heroine intent on combating the dealers peddling smack to the city’s youth, but the film’s black-and-white moral brushstrokes turn the film into 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 headstrong 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 confrontational 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 either a simpering coward or a 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 surprisingly 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.
- Joel Schumacher
- Mary Agnes Donoghue, Carol Doyle
- Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorley, Ciarán Hinds, Brenda Fricker, Don Wycherley, Barry Barnes, Simon O'Driscoll, Emmet Bergin
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