Veronica Guerin

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

VERONICA GUERIN

4/10

USA 2003 : Joel Schumacher : 98 mins

click here for Neil Young’s review of the other movie inspired by the Veronica Guerin story, When the Sky Falls.

GUEST REVIEW by Christopher Errington

Jerry Bruckheimer secured the rights to Veronica Guerin’s life story some time ago. This is the story of a young Irish journalist investigating the drug barons of Ireland who was tragically gunned down. Perhaps in the wake of the Iraq war, where many journalists had suffered similar fates, now seems like the perfect time to tell this story. Bruckheimer however is not a man known for his subtle films nor is director Joel Schumacher, who has been chosen to helm this project. The film opens with Guerin’s murder. She is driving away from a court hearing for some minor speeding charges and is elated as she has been let off. As she stops at the traffic lights a man on a bike pulls up to the side of her and smashes the window. The screen then fades to black. The rest of the story is told in flashback.

The first ten minutes of the film looks promising as Guerin is walking through a rough council estate. Children are playing on the dirty ground surrounded by used syringes. As Guerin drives away from the scene however the film couldn’t be more Hollywood.The camera follows the car through the beautiful, green, Irish countryside. The film is set in Ireland so in order to clarify this fact we are blasted with a jaunty, folky score. This is typical Hollywood logic and makes everything that precedes it seem sterile and fake. The film is directed with about as much passion as an ITV drama. Schumacher’s direction isn’t the biggest problem here. The screenplay, written by Mary Agnes Donoghue, is flat and simplistic. The character of Guerin is written as about as complex as an Irish Lois Lane. Donoghue tries to make Guerin into a more rounded, emotive character by showing her at home with her family, kicking a football around with the children. These scenes however have about as much emotional impact as an Oxo ad and just feel tacked on. The role of Guerin’s husband is horribly underwritten. He just seems to stand around looking concerned.

The film doesn’t want to get bogged down with the problems that the job may bring to the relationship so Donaghue just sugar coats it. When Guerin’s husband does air his fears to Guerin about her job the scene just ends in typical Hollywood schmaltz as they dance around the room together. The drug barons, although thuggish, never seem to feel sinister enough.

One scene however is quite chilling, where Guerin receives a threatening phone call which terrifies her into being physically sick. A couple of scenes later however and you would never know it had happened. The film gets around this by suggesting that Guerin is fearful yet she does not want to show her fear.We barely even get a sense of her fear however which makes the character unconvincing.

Cate Blanchett, desperate for a hit after Charlotte Gray, is actually very good in the lead role. She does the best with the poor material she’s been given and her Irish accent is flawless. She plays Guerin with real grace whether she’s speaking to a government official or haggling information out of a criminal lowlife. It is a shame her part didn’t have more substance to it.. This isn’t a terrible film. Some scenes are actually quite moving and the story itself is fascinating no matter how Schumacher handles it. As a mainstream Hollywood movie it could have been a lot worse. The experience is made palatable for American audiences and is never very challenging.

This film isn’t made any more credible by the appearance of Schumacher’s best mate Colin Farrell in a pointless cameo. He looks like he just wandered off the set of Daredevil, looking like Bullseye. The ending is long drawn out and overly sentimental as an unnecessaryvoice over explains to us how the world is a better place now because of Guerin. This is the sense of hope that Schumacher feels an audience needs after such a tragic ending. This sense of hope is fine. We just don’t need it ramming down our throats.

by Christopher Errington (Guest Reviewer)