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Film Review: Veronica Guerin

The latest film about the life and death of Veronica Guerin...

'Veronica Guerin', directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Cate Blanchett, begins at the end, when we see our heroine brutally gunned down by assassins. Her murder in 1996 was a defining moment in Irish life and in a series of flashbacks we then see how Guerin began investigating the dealings of the Irish criminal underworld and their drug dealers who fed off the deprivation, poverty and hopelessness of inner city and suburban Dublin life.

Cate Blanchett and Colin Farrell in Veronica GuerinGuerin is given an entry into this ugly world by The Coach, aka John Traynor, hypnotically played by Ciaran Hinds. Over time we're introduced to the various criminal characters- check out Colin Farrell's Paddywhack cameo as a Dublin 'head' outside a bookies. As the movie progresses Guerin's labyrinthine investigations eventually lead her to the door of John Gilligan, a man scarily brought to life by Gerard McSorley in a performance bristling with menace. She confronts Gilligan at his front door, he brutally beats her up and her banner headlines raises these criminals? profiles and indeed their hackles. Like a latter day Joan of Arc, she is targeted, hunted down and shot.

The story has been told before - 'When the sky falls', starring Joan Allen, was a worthy attempt at setting down Guerin's sad tale but it suffered because of a lack of cohesion in its script and urgency in its direction. Veronica Guerin' is, for the most part, well paced and well directed and is blessed by some very strong performances by the supporting cast, an Irish theatrical Who's Who. Blanchett gives a convincing and well rounded performance but if anything she's too ethereally beautiful to portray a tough worldly journo. Through no fault of hers 'Veronica Guerin' is grievously undermined by a number of fairly fundamental flaws, many of which may be a result of framing its content for the American market and indeed American tastes. Veronica Guerin' is full of unanswered questions.

First up, we're given an insight of the misery caused by heroin as Guerin, in her crisp designer duds, walks among the addicts and their discarded needles. It's a strong visual message but there is no attempt to show how this human suffering was brought about successive governments' negligence of social policy and its blindness to urban deprivation. Worse again this film does not seriously question Guerin's sometimes hair raising investigative methods, her judgement in terms of safeguarding her own safety, or her maintenance of her own very high profile while she was investigating underworld crime. In addition, the support - or lack it - offered to her is never touched upon. Emmet Bergin portrays the paper's editor as a benign teddy bear, but the question remains -could the Sunday Independent have done more to protect Veronica Guerin'

Perhaps the biggest flaw of 'Veronica Guerin' is its simplistic and rather airbrushed approach to the results of Guerin's enquiries and the consequences of her death. As the movie reaches its conclusion and Sinead O'Connor sings 'One More Day'  the viewer is led to believe that Guerin cleared Dublin of drugs in much he same way that Patrick cleared Ireland of snakes and serpents, that a wrong has been corrected, the criminals have been loaded up and branded and that above all, the Moral Imperative has held sway once again. Veronica Guerin' - worthy but flawed.

Anthony Morrissey

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