Nothing at all against Cate Blanchett, but this is the kind of movie that I will utterly forget I ever saw within a year. Based on a true story, the terrible tale of Veronica Guerin’s campaign to root out the truth about the incredible drug problem Dublin was experiencing in the early nineties, is a story that needs and deserves to be told. Her sacrifices, risks (foolish and wise) and personal endangerment, and the results of her work, are the things legends are made from. Unfortunately, despite having such riveting source material and great actors in all the roles, somewhere, the film falls flat.
Blanchett’s performance is very strong, very real, and her Irish accent is hypnotizing. Guerin is a ballsy reporter (are there any other kinds in the movies?) for the Sunday Independent in Dublin, who tires of fluff pieces and wants to change all that is wrong with this town. We miss a little of how she gets her contacts, where she got her reputation before she really spiraled into self-endangerment, but the thrust is clear. She negotiates the complex crime underworld of Dublin, with doors of safety closing silently behind her. It should have been gripping, but I found my attention wandering far more often than the situation would have warranted.
She has an unlikely onscreen partner, or counterpart anyway, in John Trainer (Ciaran Hinds), who is a fascinating character I wish we could have gotten to know better. To understand him would be to understand the entire mission she is on. They have an interesting dynamic of trust, mistrust and mutual self-interest. Ultimately, though, we cannot know too much about him, and it is her movie. It seems evident how she is making trouble for herself, roiling the muddy waters of the crime syndicates, but the source of her determination and single-mindedness is not all that clear.
I wish we could have gotten more into the why’s and the how’s of her journey, rather than listen to her justify her double speak and tip toeing into the lion’s lair again and again. It’s a miracle she got as far as she did, and maybe that is what the story is trying to admire. Ultimately, we are not surprised by how her campaign ends; merely surprised that she was surprised. I am sorry not to have liked it more, but I found it hard to admire a woman who I could not fathom, and I found it harder to appreciate what she was up against when so much information could not be conveyed due to the various criminal’s status and legal issues.
I can say it’s the best Joel Schumacher film I have seen since 1993’s Falling Down*, but that is like saying it was the best pap smear I have had since 1993.
*OK I did like Phone Booth, but not because Schumacher had anything to do with it.
MPAA Rating R -violence, language & some drug content
Release date 10/17/03
Time in minutes 92
Director Joel Schumacher