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USA 2003
Directed by
Joel Schumacher
94 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars

Veronica Guerin

Synopsis Dublin in the mid 1990s had trouble with more than the politics of religion - it was a war zone with rival drug lords battling for control and young kids, many of them under 15, dying from drug overdoses. Investigative journalist Veronica Guerin (Cate Blanchett), appalled by what she sees around her, decides to expose these sordid criminals. Using her underworld contact, John Traynor (Ciaran Hinds), she moves closer to the real criminals and pushers - men like John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley) and Gerry Hutch (Alan Devine) - who eventually decide Guerin is revealing too much and organise her death.

Veronica Guerin is a 'true' story about real people who make a difference and thanks to whom, although they pay the price with their lives, ultimately social change ensues. We know from the opening scene what the ultimate outcome for our heroine is, yet despite this, the film keeps up a cracking pace and strong level of suspense, the plot pushing forward relentlessly, never flagging.

Blanchett  is one of those modern actors who seems to inhabit whatever role she plays, and her research for the part, meeting friends and family of the real Guerin, certainly paid off. She plays Guerin as gutsy, fearless, compassionate and determined, with an almost masculine confidence.  There are a couple of terrific cameo roles, one with Brenda Fricker as Guerin's mother who reminisces that, even as a child, "Veronica always wanted to be one better than the boys". The other is Colin Farrell, looking very much the part as a small-time crim.

Many of the opening images of housing commission areas with children playing among the syringes, grimy stairwells and spaced-out junkies help the audience to empathise with Guerin's moral outrage. The film was shot on location in Dublin with many seedy locations of run-down neighbourhoods and brothels lending authenticity to the look and the bleached-out tone of the film adding to the mood of despair. The contrast between the worlds of respectability and that of the "criminati" is wonderfully contrasted, especially when we see the extravagant, but tasteless, equestrian property that Gilligan maintains in an effort to seem upper crust.

Some have claimed that Schumacher's film would be nothing without Blanchett's performance. Although this does lend star-power gloss to a real life tragedy isn't any story which addresses the dire effects of drugs worth telling, especially when combined with the inspiring message that one person can make a difference. (Ireland legislated for much stronger drug laws after Guerin's death).

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