Veronica Guerin | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
Veronica Guerin may well have been a fascinating woman, but we don't learn that from Joel Schumacher's simplistic bio-pic. Writing for the Sunday Independent newspaper, Guerin made her name in the mid-1990s investigating drug gangs and organized crime in Dublin. In 1996, she was murdered by members of those very gangs, and her brutal death made her a national hero. The film depicts the final two years of Guerin's life, when with the help of the police and an informant named John Traynor (Ciaran Hinds), Guerin begins to circle brutish crime boss John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley), undeterred even by physical assaults made upon her.

Schumacher, who has helmed mainstream fare like A Time to Kill and odder features, such as Tigerland and last year's Phone Booth, appears to split the difference with this film: There's all the clichés we'd expect from a lazily executed big Hollywood film (Jerry Bruckheimer produced) -- yet it's about somebody most Americans have never heard of.

While trying to laud Guerin, this big-screen version simply makes her look facile and one-dimensional. We never come to understand what drives Guerin or why she continues in the face of obvious peril -- hubris, ignorance, outrage, ambition? Guerin's relationship with Traynor hints that each may be grayer than Schumacher's simple black-and-white outline depicts, but there's little shown beneath the surface. And why give us scenes of other journalists sniping about how phony Guerin is (interesting, but never explained). Cate Blanchett as Guerin is also a disappointment. You can see her trying, but mostly Blanchett ends up doing a lot of eyelash-batting and self-conscious springing about (the real Guerin was notably athletic).

For the inevitable tragic end, Schumacher unpacks every cliché in his box: slow-motion photography, mournful singing, reaction shots from every cast member, the funeral march through thronged streets -- and even these don't tug easy-to-grab heart strings because he's failed to establish Guerin as anything more than an action figure, or to place her work in any real context so that we can vicariously feel what a shock her murder must have been.

The film concludes with a title noting how many other journalists have been killed since. But there could be no worse tribute to these martyrs for truth than the absurd generalizations the film intones -- including the assertion that as a direct result of Guerin's murder, the Irish people rose up as one and drove the drug pushers from their land (St. Patrick had already run off all the snakes). A decent journalist wouldn't stand beside such a ridiculous, baseless claim -- nor would she want to be memorialized by one.

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