Veronica Guerin

2003, Movie, R, 92 mins


Not the household name in the U.S. that she was in her native Ireland, journalist Veronica Guerin went head to head with Dublin's underworld and paid with her life for the naive belief that being a member of the press somehow insulated her from violence. Guerin's story was first filmed in 1999, three years after her death, as WHEN THE SKY FALLS. Where that film used pseudonyms to protect innocent and guilty alike, Joel Schumacher's slick and eminently watchable film, from a screenplay by Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue, names names and is a bracing antidote to fashionable press bashing. There's never any question but that Guerin (Cate Blanchett) was a brave and principled woman willing to put her life on the line for her beliefs, a difficult and admirable thing. That Schumacher's film fails to capture Guerin's complexity — crusaders are notoriously difficult, driven and single-minded to the point of cruelty to those who love them — is just a function of the Hollywood storytelling machine. Guerin, who came to journalism after studying accounting and political research, and forming her own public relations company, wrote for the sensationalistic but widely read Sunday Independent. Tired of penning human interest fluff, she stumbled onto the story that consumed the rest of her life: Dublin's low-rent council flats and rundown neighborhoods were in the grip of an unprecedented wave of drug trafficking that was making thugs obscenely rich and destroying a generation of Irish youth. Guerin was thwarted at every turn. Dealers were inadvertently protected by British libel laws, which made it easy to sue newspapers for accusations of criminal activity, and by Inland Revenue's (the UK's IRS) willingness to ignore the source of an individual's income, however dubious, as long as taxes were paid on it. Other journalists dismissed Guerin and sneered that she was a grandstander, but the criminals whose business she poked her nose into took her very seriously indeed. As Guerin draws closer to connecting a notorious hard case named John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley) to the drug trade, she's shot, beaten and told her family would pay dearly for her pig-headedness. The film begins with her murder, so it comes as no surprise when her adversaries finally make good on their threats. Blanchett's insouciant but steely performance alone makes the film worth watching, but it's Brenda Fricker's quietly underplayed turn as Guerin's mother that makes your throat tighten. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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