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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Hollywood simplifies Guerin's story
by Neil Smith
BBC News Online

Cate Blanchett as Veronica Guerin
Blanchett said she felt an "enormous responsibility"

Hollywood film Veronica Guerin is based on the true story of the journalist who was murdered for exposing Dublin's criminal gang activity.

The real-life story of Irish crime reporter Veronica Guerin and her quest to expose Dublin's drug lords has all the makings of a cracking movie - or even two.

Three years ago, American actress Joan Allen played a thinly disguised version of Guerin in the drama When The Sky Falls.

Now it is the turn of Australian Cate Blanchett to pay tribute to the late journalist's integrity and courage.

Veronica Guerin begins and ends with her murder in June 1996, a shocking act of violence that outraged the nation and paved the way for legal reforms making it easier for the government to convict the villains she spent her life fighting against.

Click here to review the film yourself

In between we see how Guerin doggedly used her network of informants to uncover the drug barons' crimes.

Her articles in the Sunday Independent newspaper led to death threats, physical violence and two shootings - the second of them fatal.

Clearly Guerin was a heroine for our times whose sacrifice should never be forgotten.

Cate Blanchett as Veronica Guerin
It is hard to maintain the tension when the end is so well known
But while Blanchett gives a stirring performance in the role, director Joel Schumacher cannot resist saddling his biopic with the usual Hollywood sentiment and bombast.

Schumacher is not the first film-maker to be drawn to this period of recent Irish history.

John Boorman's The General and Kevin Spacey's comedy Ordinary Decent Criminal viewed the same milieu from the lawbreaker's perspective.

The time was certainly ripe to redress the balance, but Schumacher tips the scales too far in the opposite direction.

Here the criminals are psychotic, volatile and cruel, littering the mean streets of Dublin with discarded heroin paraphernalia and running rings around a clueless and ineffectual Garda.

This simplistic view of a thorny problem does Blanchett few favours.

Though she tries to inject her character with human frailties and emotions, Mary Agnes Donoghue's screenplay limits her options by painting Guerin as a latter-day saint.

And since we already know the ending, attempts to build tension flounder - despite an almost demonic turn from Gerard McSorley as Veronica's chief adversary John Gilligan.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is best known for flag-waving blockbusters like Pearl Harbor and Top Gun.

Veronica Guerin may represent a belated attempt to win critical respectability, but in essence it is no less reactionary.

Veronica Guerin is released in the UK on Friday.

Have you seen the film? What did you think?

Send us your views on the form below.

Veronica Guerin was an exceptional, daring, and brave journalist covering issues which seemed to the Irish public to be beyond the control of politicians and Gardai at that time.

She was one of a number of voices at that time exposing the shortcomings of the Irish criminal justice system, while simultaneously challenging and exposing the suspects to scrutiny in a manner unprecedented in Ireland.

Cate Blanchett portrays Guerin as a woman whose only explanation for her quest for truth was her bravery. Her performance is remarkable, and the film, while flawed as all dramatisations are, is a dignified and fitting tribute to a woman who paid the ultimate price for upholding the values of a free press.
Denis, London, England

I was born and grew up in Dublin. The film was an excellent portrayal of Veronica Guerin's life. It also made me proud to see a man like Jerry Bruckheimer produce such a masterpiece without the Hollywood glitter that Neil Smith of the BBC claims it has. Excellent movie and very moving.
Stephen Kane, Ireland

I thought the movie was excellent, but the ending was very Hollywood and also the running time of about 1 1/2 hours was probably about 20 minutes too short.
S. Fleming, UK

A compelling film not without its weaknesses, particularly the ending. Blanchett was excellent as were the whole cast.
Joanne, Ireland

I saw this film today, and was very moved by it too. Yes, it was pretty manipulative emotionally, but Cate Blanchett was extremely charismatic in the title role. I think I heard the odd waver in her Irish accent, but she portrayed Guerin's drive to expose the drug barons very well.

Guerin's - perhaps foolhardy - courage was very inspiring, how many of us would have the courage to stand up to such dangerous men?

I have no idea how accurate the portrayals of the villains and police was. Yes, the villains WERE shown as irredeemable backguards, the police as powerless, the situation on the streets, unbearably bleak.

I had the choice of whether to see this film or Spy Kids 3D today - a bit of mindless entertaining fluff, or the story of a brave woman. I think it is important that films like this - while not immediately obviously commercial - are made, with stars and directors of this calibre.
Cathy, UK

To describe the film as painting Ms. Guerin as a latter-day saint, I find a bit harsh. This woman did more for Irish society than most outside of the country know and she paid the ultimate price.The film stays true to its influences and its cast give an accurate portrayal of their real life counterparts.

My apologies in contradicting Mr Smith, but these were psychotic, volatile and extremely cruel. And as for Gerard McSorley's performance as Gilligan, it chilled me to my core.

For Irish people this film is of historical importance and a story of national tragedy. For the world it's an inspirational tale of courage and the quest for truth and justice.
Jeff, Ireland

I thought the film delivered an honest account of the situation as she saw it. I don't think it was too sentimental, if they were aiming for that, they would have used the children in the story a lot more. Ms Guerin is not portrayed as a "saint", but as someone who is struck by an issue and feels compelled to deal with it in the ways she knows how.

"Here the criminals are psychotic, volatile and cruel, littering the mean streets of Dublin with discarded heroin paraphernalia and running rings around a clueless and ineffectual Garda." Yes. They were/are.

"This simplistic view of a thorny problem" states your reviewer. How would they have liked this problem to have been portrayed in 115 minutes? The film was not to me so much about the issues of the drug abuse, but the people surrounding it. And I think that the film gives the viewer a good insight as to what prompted Ms Guerin to act as she did.

I think also that Ms Blanchett portrayed the character in an honest fashion, without trying to make Ms Guerin "Hollywood" in the slightest. This was a compelling film, and one of a story that needed to be told.
Allan T, Scotland

Not knowing the real story, I don't think Veronica was portrayed as a saint. I found the film deeply moving and interesting even if at points was over-sentimental (like the telling friends and relatives about her death). All in all, a great film.
Sonia, Scotland

I saw a preview recently (at the Cambridge Film Festival) and thought it was an excellent film. Great cast, great script, great direction. A compelling story and a must for anyone!
Ewan Kaer, Impington

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Back to top

UK première for Guerin movie
22 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
Guerin film scores Irish success
15 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
Hollywood sticks to Guerin story
10 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
Blanchett 'fascinated' by Guerin
09 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
Guerin case haunts police
22 Mar 02  |  Europe
Death of an Irish heroine
15 Mar 01  |  Europe


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