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Veronica Guerin
cast: Cate Blanchett, Ciarán Hinds, Gerard McSorley, Brenda Fricher, and Don Wycherley

director: Joel Schumacher

94 minutes (18) 2003 widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Buena Vista VHS rental or retail
Also available to rent or buy on DVD

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Tom Matic
Based on the true story of the titular investigative journalist's assassination by the drug baron she helped to expose, Veronica Guerin begins with the events immediately leading up to her death, then flashes back to show the full story of her three-year crusade against the Irish Republic's heroin dealers. This method of narrative gives her progress towards an untimely end a tragic inevitability, with everything drawing her towards her fatal confrontation with the gangster known as 'The General'. Guerin's face-to-face doorstep approaches to drug pushers became her trademark, and Cate Blanchett's Guerin is a study in chutzpah and naivety in such scenes, powerfully conveying her shock when this tactic backfires, provoking a savage beating. Actors like Ciarán Hinds, as her contact in the underworld, a pimp with a heart of gold, and Brenda Fricker as her stoical mother, ably support her.
   Although artful and intelligent, the direction is mostly unremarkable, except for the overhead shot of Guerin's corpse. The soundtrack relies heavily on stereotypically Celtic pipes, whistles and Enya-esque breathy vocals, betraying a patronising Hollywood 'love' of the Irish (the mythical, salt-of-the-earth decent folk that is, not the bull-necked gangster types). The film is at pains to avoid canonising Guerin, portraying her as a fallible, human figure, a keen footballer and inveterate collector of speeding fines.
   But this same focus on the character and life of Veronica Guerin sidelines the popular movement against smack dealers on Dublin's housing estates, Concerned Parents Against Drugs. The film suggests that the sudden change in the Irish authorities' approach to organised crime and the drug trade in the mid-1990s were entirely down to Guerin's journalism, and had nothing to do with CPAD's campaign of direct action, marching through estates and dragging local dealers out of their flats. These incidents are mentioned, but they are consigned to a footnote by a scriptwriter who sees history as being made by outstanding and gifted individuals. No one can doubt Guerin's courage, not least those who took to the streets, who were clearly inspired by it and angered by her death. But if there is a lesson in this tragedy, it was one that the makers of Veronica Guerin have refused to acknowledge. Taking on the powerful cannot be the work of one person, however brave.
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