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  Veronica Guerin
Year: 2002
Director: Joel Schumacher
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Alan Devine, Ciaran Hinds, Joe Hanley, Brenda Fricker, Darragh Kelly, Gerard McSorley, Garret Keogh, Colin Farrell
Genre: Drama, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: During our time on earth, one of the hardest things to accept is that some people die at an obscenely young age: friends, family, famous people.... no walk of life is exempt. When President Kennedy departed from this world, practically everybody could remember what he/she was doing when the news came through, and the same applies to Princess Diana, John Lennon and the Manchester United players who perished in the Munich air disaster. For the people of Ireland, the assassination of Veronica Guerin had exactly the same impact.

In 1996, Guerin (Blanchett), an investigative reporter for the Sunday Independent, began to wage a private war on the drugs trade in Ireland. In Schumacher's film, the manipulative John 'The Coach' Traymor (Hinds) feeds Guerin false information as her inquiries become a growing cause for concern amongst the Dublin underworld. Although Martin Cahill (see John Boorman's The General) was her initial target, the names of Gerry Hutch (Devine) and John Gilligan (McSorley) soon take centre stage; the latter running a money laundering operation, using his equestrian centre as a seemingly respectable front.

Although Guerin's tale was first translated into film in 1999 (When The Sky Falls, starring Joan Allen), there's little doubt this latest incarnation will prove to be the most faithful account of her short life amongst us, and will likely be the final word - on celluloid at least.

The choice of Joel Schumacher and Jerry Bruckheimer as director and producer seemed, on previous track record(s), to be ill-advised. Well, those of us who cast doubts were wrong because the story is told with great sensitivity. So, why an 18 certificate here in the UK? The film is bookended with Guerin's murder - the final act containing the most graphic footage - and there's an absolutely hideous beating administered by Gilligan when Guerin pushed her luck a little too far. This, together with a 'botched' shooting (deliberately, in my view) are elements of the film that are normally associated with Schumacher and his buddy, and believe me, they pack a real punch. However, there are many other moments that also linger in the memory: Guerin, her husband and son dancing round the kitchen to 'Everlasting Love' (performed by U2); the devastating scene where Guerin, lying in a hospital bed, finally realises the position she's put herself in, and the much-criticised finale which, quite rightly, focuses on the depth of feeling surrounding her murder, and the overwhelming sadness exhibited at her funeral.

Inevitably, there are a number of details that don't quite gel with history - usually the case when cinema shares its bed with real life events: the murder of Martin Cahill is linked to a central character in this film, although the IRA took responsibility for that one, and changes in the laws aimed at the drugs trade are perhaps a little overstated regarding their overall effect. You can put this down to artistic licence, residing just a few blocks away from Guerin practically wading through disgarded syringes during her investigations, or discussing the mercurial Eric Cantona with a football-loving street punk. And was Guerin really so reckless as to put her family in such grave danger?

Veronica's family attended the Irish premiere of this film, and praised cast and crew for largely telling it how it was. Her mother, Bernie (played by the underused Brenda Fricker), also commented that no other actress could have portrayed her late daughter: a warm, appreciative statement which is richly deserved. Adopting a flawless Irish accent, Cate Blanchett bears an almost uncanny resemblance to Guerin and, according to family and friends, captured her personality and mannerisms by way of painstaking research.

Be quite certain that we really do see Veronica Guerin in this film and if there's any justice, Blanchett's performance will be honoured at the forthcoming Academy Awards.
Reviewer: Steve Langton

 

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Joel Schumacher  (1939 - )

American director and occasional writer who rather unfairly won a reputation as one of the worst in Hollywood when he was really only as good as the material he was given. Starting as a costume designer (working with Woody Allen), he went onto a couple of TV movies - screenwriting Car Wash, Sparkle and The Wiz between them - and then a feature, spoof The Incredible Shrinking Woman. D.C. Cab followed, then a couple of eighties-defining teen hits, St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys, and remake Cousins.

In the nineties, he was offered higher profile movies, including supernatural Flatliners, cult urban nightmare Falling Down, John Grisham adaptations The Client and A Time To Kill, blockbusting camp Batman Forever and the much-maligned Batman & Robin, and grotty 8MM. 1999's Flawless signalled a change to smaller scale works: army drama Tigerland, true life tale Veronica Guerin and thriller Phone Booth. Lavish musical The Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber was a Lost Boys fan) was a return to the overblown blockbusters, but it flopped, as did his conspiracy thriller The Number 23.

 
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