How many cliches can you conjure forth with the line “Gritty Irish drama”? Mentions of the IRA? Black leather jackets? Sink estate depravation? Dublin looking grim? Sinead O’Connor singing a song? Well… with populist director Joel Schumacher at the helm of Veronica Guerin, you get the lot and more besides.
This film is based on the true story of Veronica Guerin, an accountant by training who turned to journalism to “make a difference” (another cliche). She found herself writing about Dublin’s drug gangs of the mid-1990s and resolved to expose the shenanigans of the unsavoury characters at the top of the heap of dung.
The film tells exactly how the dealers took exception to this, and what the plucky Guerin did in response.
Cate Blanchett is as charismatic as you could want a lead actress to be, has a perfect Irish accent and convinces us that Guerin was herself an estimable figure amongst those who knew her. But she wafts about in a breezy, optimistic manner, seeming almost as if she wants to get the shoot done quickly rather than being concerned with Guerin’s character development as events shape her life. And aside from the worthy story on which the film is based, she’s the only aspect of this film that works in any way.
The opening is clumsy to the point of laughable as reels of text explain, several minutes into the film, what should have been explained at the start in less words. Dublin gets only its stereotypically bad side shown – there’s certainly no space for the pavement cafes of Temple Bar here.
Even the gangsters get to play out stereotypical manners and actions. And we’re treated to another essay at the close of play, after everyone, simply everyone, has a chance to cry to the strains of Sinead. As if that weren’t enough, Colin Farrell turns up to play a rough-looking Irishman – which shouldn’t have stretched him.
Lest we forget, producer Jerry Bruckheimer (and his legions of credited assistants) is the man who brought the world Pearl Harbor – so when emotions should be running high it’s hardly a surprise that everything is dumbed down to the point of lobotomy. It’s a shame – Guerin herself was an inspirational crusader and journalist, and her memory certainly deserved better than such a mediocre cinematic epitaph.