Veronica Guerin (2003) – movie review

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Movie Review by Reece De Ville

Starring: Cate Blanchett Gerard McSorley, Ciarán Hinds, Brenda Fricker, Joe Hanley

Director: Joel Schumacher

Journalists are often expected to enter the firing line once in a while. Heck, if you’re going to expose someone or something that doesn’t want to be exposed, then you shouldn’t be surprised when there’s fallout. VERONICA GUERIN tells the true story of Ireland’s most revered investigative journalist, whose work prompted sweeping reforms in Irish criminal law.

The journalistic life of Veronica Guerin (Blanchett) is explored here by Joel Schumacher and, rather bizarrely, produced by uber testosterone producer Jerry Bruckheimer, detailing the events leading up to her tragic murder. Through her relationship with underworld fixer John Traynor (Hinds), Guerin sought to bring down the empire of John Gilligan (McSorley), yet brought the threat home to her family with threats, shootings and a brutal beating as part of the Gilligan gang retaliation.

Guerin’s is the kind of story that could be made as your typical HBO ‘movie of the week’ with, perhaps, Sally Field and Alfred Molina as the two protagonists. As it stands, the film is an interesting document of the events leading up to Guerin’s death, yet it is simply not involving or epic enough to warrant the cinema release it’s getting. Blanchett is serviceable in the main role, yet cannot convey the necessary warmth to make Guerin’s murder the shock it needs to be. Indeed, Schumacher sets out his stall early on with a woeful mishandling of the murder, shown right at the start in syrupy slow motion. Try as he might, Schumacher cannot seem to prevent himself from ladling on the traditional Irish music or journalistic clichés (the worried husband, the understanding boss, the criminal with a heart of gold), which dull the sharp edge of what should have been a tragic tale.

One terrible mistake was to include a cameo by Colin Farrell as a football fan who sparks off an idea in Guerin. Not only is this small scene irritatingly expositional, but it also detracts from the whole nature of including mostly unknown actors – thus allowing the audience to become embroiled in the story and characters. Hinds and McSorley offer entertaining performances which help to keep the pace of the film swift, yet they cannot disguise that this is a tale best told to a smaller audience in a smaller, more intimate surrounding.

Schumacher is gathering a reputation for smaller, less ‘showy’ films – perhaps in response to the travesty that was BATMAN AND ROBIN. However, VERONICA GUERIN has perhaps been made a touch too worthy for it’s own good and lacks the hard edge of 8MM or TIGERLAND which have brought the director back from the brink of mediocrity.

3 out of 6 stars