Veronica Guerin Review
By Shawn McKenzie 10/17/2003
Director Joel Schumacher has been under constant scrutiny ever since he screwed up the last two Batman flicks, and I have been one of those who scrutinized him. I’ve come up with the theory that he can only make good movies if they are rated R. From 1983’s hilarious D.C. Cab to 2003’s exciting Phone Booth, this theory has mostly held true. Veronica Guerin proves that this theory isn’t set in stone.
Irish journalist Veronica Guerin (Cate Blanchett) is a reporter for the Dublin Sunday Independent. In 1996, she exposed some powerful drug lords, and it resulted in her execution by those involved in the Irish drug ring. I am not spoiling anything by saying this, because the murder happens at the beginning of the film. The rest of the film tells the story that led up to the murder. They flash back to Veronica touring the slums of Dublin. There are hypodermic needles in the street, and many people are forced to turn to a life of crime to feed their habits. She decides to go after the drug lords supplying the drugs, since the police seem to be helpless. Through police files supplied to her by her cop friend Chris Mulligan (Don Wycherley), she tracks down Martin Cahill, a.k.a. the General (Gerry O’Brien), a notorious crime king. When Cahill is killed, Veronica begins to look for other leaders. Her usual source, John Traynor, a.k.a. the Coach (Ciarán Hinds), tries to mislead her by implicating Gerry Hutch, a.k.a. the Monk (Alan Devine.) Traynor loves the attention he receives helping the famous reporter, but he doesn’t want to tick off the brutal John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley), the new top drug kingpin, who would rather keep his name out of the newspaper. Veronica sees past this trickery and begins looking into Gillian. Traynor hires a hitman to scare her by shooting her in the leg. It doesn’t stop her, and her relentless pursuit concerns her editor Aengus Fanning (Emmet Bergin), her mother Bernie (Brenda Fricker), her brother Jimmy (Paul Ronan), and her husband Graham (Barry Barnes), who is also worried for their son Cathal (Simon O’Driscoll.) Her brave reporting made her a folk hero in Ireland, but she paid for it with her life.
I’ve learned that this movie isn’t the first one to take on Guerin’s story. In 2000, there was a movie called When the Sky Falls starring Joan Allen. All of the characters were renamed though, including Guerin (her character was named Sinead Hamilton.) I can’t do a comparison, since I’ve never seen that film, but this version is decent, if not spectacular.
Blanchett does some of her best acting here. I’m still stinging from her boring Oscar-nominated performance in Elizabeth, but she is tough and engaging in this one. The real standout is McSorley, who is very scary and menacing. In a scene where he beats the crap out of Veronica, it was very frightening in that it came out of nowhere.
Acting aside, the story drags at several points. In between her bulldog attacks to find the story, the movie slows down and even gets confusing. It takes awhile to distinguish the characters too, but at least they stand out once they establish themselves.
I’ve heard the complaint that Veronica Guerin loses suspense because you find out her fate at the beginning of the movie. While I agree that it takes away the suspense, I don’t think that this movie was intended to be a thriller. It was a standard biopic, and it accomplished that goal. What does this movie mean towards my Schumacher R-rated movie theory? I think I’ll just amend it to include biopics as something he shouldn’t helm. Hey, at least he is (hopefully) off Batman flicks for good!
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