Veronica Guerin

Oct 22, 2003 at 12:00 am

One of the more important lessons Irish films of the last 20 years have taught us is that you don’t fuck with the green underworld, whether it be the IRA or just plain druglords. Those who do end up wounded, maimed and dead, and not necessarily in that order. Irish journalist Veronica Guerin learned the hard way during her mid-’90s investigation into Dublin’s heroin traffickers — a fate that, while certainly not her fault, might have been avoided had she tempered her arrogance and given violent criminals the respect they so unfortunately deserve.

That Joel Schumacher directed this eponymous biopic ought to be fair warning for anybody interested in an entertaining, affecting experience. The man who single-handedly brought the Batman franchise to its knees has made several movies that could actually be termed “good” (the last being Tigerland). His usual mode of filmmaking is middle-of-the-road, overbudgeted rubbish that suckers in talent like Nic Cage and Robert De Niro. Veronica Guerin allegedly cost less than $20 million, but that doesn’t prevent it from suffering the attendant Schumacher mediocrity.

Nobody told Cate Blanchett that she was fighting a losing battle, and her Guerin hits all the right notes — nosy, exasperating, vulnerable, stubborn and self-important. A high-profile journalist for Dublin’s Sunday Independent, Guerin is waging a losing war against her own middle-class guilt, and when no one else steps up to investigate the rampant drug use in the uglier parts of the city (especially among its youth), she decides it’s up to her to make a difference. Turning up dirt on ruthless criminals, especially those in the drug business, is a dangerous enterprise, and Guerin discovers this firsthand. She remains undeterred to the end, resulting from a mixture of her own ego and an unflagging sense of justice. Blanchett’s performance is all you could ask for, but it can’t allay a curious flatness that runs through the rest of the movie.

Veronica Guerin has a significant intersection with John Boorman’s 1998 masterpiece The General, one of the most overlooked and underrated films of the past decade. That movie told the story of Martin Cahill, a crime boss who eschewed the drug trade and was murdered for his troubles. While The General romanticized Cahill and his exploits, he shows up Veronica Guerin as a secondary character illuminated in a different light. While The General doesn’t touch upon Guerin, it might be worthwhile going back to take a look at it — at the very least, you’d be seeing a first-class movie rather than one laboring under the weight of its own sense of entitlement.

Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].