Veronica Guerin

VERONICA GUERIN. 2003

Director: Joel Schumacher

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Here is a by-the-numbers film based on the true story of a Dublin journalist assassinated by drug mobsters. It's an earnest film on an earnest topic, but comes off curiously insincere.

It's difficult to pinpoint why it's so dull, as the great Cate Blanchet turns in a more than adequate central performance (even if not her best), & the supporting cast, particularly the gangsters, are decent roles colorfully presented.

The fault may lay in the creative team's orientation toward commercialism, tackling a story much too serious for this particular producer & director, who only do conventional Hollywood pablum. The film is slick to the point of abject artificiality & fabrication. It oozes with the producer's eagerness to provide not a superior Chick Flick focused on acting & worthwhile story, but something violent enough that it wouldn't be stigmatized as a Chick Flick. The crew went forth with the belief that unless they could pound the film into something of a gangster epic with scary Irish Republican Army thugs into the bargain, Veronica's story was insufficiently commercial to pull in the crowds.

The camera & direction luxuriate in the images of the gangsters as psychopaths & fetishisticly pretty Irish lads in shiny leather, while visually treating Veronica's work life & family life as one long inconsequential banality.

The script isn't as bad as the director's focus, as the script does include the information that Veronica is motivated both by her desire to do social good & her vanity & desire for personal fame, requiring that she neglect & even endanger her family. This is fruit for some heavy stuff & a complex character full of folly, selfishness, & heroism. In a typical scene where her brother notes that he's the only Guerin in the phone-book & he's likely to get killed. She poopoos his worries without even slight regard. In another scene she hasn't a clue what her child is getting on his birthday, as she's no longer involved in her own family life.

These things are in the script, but they happen so swiftly, with so little focus, that they barely register as levels of characterization. Due to directorial choices, the Veronica that Cate projects is shallow & uninteresting compared to the psycho mobster who beats her up.

So it mostly rings hollow. While the gangsterish moments are sometimes brutal in an appealing Hollywood manner, for the actual dramatic content the film is mere manipulation. In a cameo by Colin Farrell contributing nothing to the story as Sexy Tattooed Working Class Boy, the screen momentarily springs alive as it never does when Veronica interacts with family or fellow workers, because it's a film that admires scruffy working class lads way more than it gives a shit about a middleclass working woman out to save Dublin from the cute guys. I kept waiting to see Colin's great character show up & reveal what purpose he had in the story at all, & was disappointed it turned out to be a mere walk-on. By contrast, Veronica's mother which the script intended as an important character is instantly forgettable.

Directorial choices even spoil the climax with umpteen needless cinematic tricks. When Veronica is killed, we get an ornately overdone sound track, changes in film speeds, lingering camera angles from close up, from far away, from overhead, multiple portraits of the poor sad dear journalist's staring corpse, cutting away to members of the family already grieving & close-up of little child hugged by weeping daddy, then back to further portraits of crime scene, all of it stretched out while a beautiful sad song is being sung as if from Heaven... It was more like an outtake from Chicago the musical, not the end of a life that mattered.

If the story had been told well it would simply have been intensely sorrowful without all the film tricks. Too obviously someone lacked faith in the story or the performance, so the direction took over with ten different telegraph messages, & big arrows drawn all over the screen pointing at the sad part. Everything but a dying kitten with tears in its computer-enhanced eyes is tossed in to wring sympathy from the crowd, which has the opposite effect of destroying all sympathy.

The kitschy director of faggoty fantasies like Batman & Robin was just not the right guy to frame a woman's performance in a tragic biopic, though a producer like Jerry Bruckheimer of slick commercial emptyheaded movies like National Treasure & Pirates of the Carribean doubtless got exactly the wrong director on purpose, with Joel doing precisely the awful job demanded of him.

I'd even so give it an adequacy rating, though a more sensitive director working with Cate Blanchet would've gotten a vastly better film than this one.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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