Veronica Guerin

It might be unfair to ask for shades of moral ambiguity in a film recounting the true story of crusading journalist Veronica Guerin, who died while investigating the workings of Dublin's drug trade in 1996. On the other hand, it might be fair to expect a film that didn't make Erin Brockovich look like Wile E. Coyote. A late-blooming journalist who took on church scandals before targeting the underworld, Guerin became a focal point for champions of judicial reform. As directed by Joel Schumacher (Phone Booth, Batman & Robin), Veronica Guerin presents its subject as a saint made of newsprint, stopping short only of surrounding her with cherubs and giving her the power to heal addicts with the hem of her garment. Cate Blanchett plays Guerin, which helps. Blanchett could probably convey human depth even as an extra, but here, she's hindered by a script that simply pits her against bad guys and naysayers as if there could be no space between. Even the issue of whether she should pursue her quarry after her family's life is threatened becomes a non-starter, a matter of spunky resolve vs. evil. Veronica Guerin is a restrained effort by Schumacher's standards, but he still tackles its complexities as if still directing 8mm and dealing with the pressing social ill of snuff films. During her first foray into a drug-infested neighborhood, Blanchett is greeted by children playing with needles in dirty streets and junkies shooting up with babies in their arms; their addiction is supposedly solely the result of evil pushers, and can be solved simply by calling the pushers out. Schumacher and screenwriters Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue even remove any mystery on this front, breaking from Blanchett's investigation to show the bad guys at work for no other apparent reason than to insert some extra violence. What Veronica Guerin really needs is a perspective broader than its sassy-woman-reporter-vs.-crime-lords story will allow. If Guerin's legacy is half as impressive as the triumphant final scrawl suggests, she deserves better than this high-gloss yellow journalism.

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