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Veronica Guerin

(2003) ** 1/2 R
98 min. Touchstone. Director: Joel Schumacher. Cast: Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorley, Ciaran Hinds, Brenda Fricker, Don Wycherley.

With Veronica Guerin, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Joel Schumacher efficiently embalm their titular heroic martyr. A true story told in the language and at the speed of a Hollywood thriller, Veronica Guerin embraces narrative and visual cliches, typically playing fast and loose with the facts while hyping up a story which we'd just as soon see told simply and accurately.

Cate Blanchett plays Guerin, a Dublin reporter who, in the early 90s, put her investigative skills to bear on the unchecked Irish drug trade. A modern folk hero, Guerin had a reputation for tenacity, tested by threats and assaults from the targets of her crime reports. At times, Blanchett oddly plays to the camera with flirty takes and steely gazes; her accent is impeccable, but her affect unfortunately complements the film's overdone style. The acting, all around, could do with some dialing down, from Ciaran Hinds's flop-sweat informant to Gerard McSorley's rabid crimelord.

Though it's certainly possible that Schumacher flattened their work on set and in the editing room, screenwriters Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue's approach often seems obvious. Guerin strides into a drug den when she wants some questions answered (fearless, check). About the drugs peddled to young children, openly, in the street, Guerin says, "Nobody's writing about it...nobody cares" (caring, check). Guerin makes her husband promise he will never admit to her being afraid (human, check). Each scene putters through indicative dialogue, in which Veronica's loved ones (including, for good measure, Oscar nominee Brenda Fricker, as Mama Guerin) comment on her fearlessness or advise her to walk away.

When one of the bad guys intones, "You've been to my house. Maybe it's about time I visit yours," the very next scene depicts a gunshot fired into Guerin's happy home. The coarse juxtapositions of Guerin singing with her family to the deadly threat on the homestead--of Guerin's crackling joie de vivre to the mortal danger she faces--only serve to alienate a been-there, seen-that audience (the feminist whistle-blower plot often recalls Silkwood, but then I guess the statute of limitations on that twenty-year-old film are up). In truth, Veronica Guerin recounts an extraordinary legacy, but that Guerin's story is important and worth telling suggests all the more reason to tell it well.

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