In the mid 1990s, Ireland experienced an upsurge in illegal drug trafficking of epidemic proportions. Veronica Guerin, an investigative journalist who up to then had been very successful in writing exposes about such incendiary issues as the practice of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, noticed the increasingly devastating toll the widespread illicit drug trade was taking on Irish youths. This movie tells how she went after the criminals responsible for dumping these drugs into the streets of Dublin.
Hampered by a political system that turned a blind eye to the wealth that the drug lords seemed to amass from no apparent source and by a largely indifferent public, Ms. Guerin sets out to shine the spotlight on the issue by aggressively probing into their activities. Using her various contacts in the underworld and in the police department, she searches through the suspected criminals’ financial records for a paper trail. She writes article after article describing the inner workings and destructive effects of the illegal drug industry in her society, and eventually she pays for it with her life.
The movie begins with Veronica Guerin’s assassination after stopping at a traffic light. Although knowing this fact right from the start helps to soften the impact, this is still a very hard movie to sit through. As opposed to the steady stream of desensitizing action thrillers Hollywood has been feeding the public in recent years, the loss of life in this movie is a realistic event felt at a visceral, emotional level.
After the initial shock of her killing, the story backtracks to a couple of years earlier, and details step by step the events leading to that fateful day. Walking through one of the seediest parts of town, Veronica Guerin is appalled by the dreadful sight of young children playing with discarded syringes, and teenagers looking like zombies under the influence of heroin. After asking a few questions here and there, her probing quickly snowballs into a major investigative project which takes her on a journey through some of the most depressing drug shooting galleries and bordellos seen on the big screen in quite some time.
At one point, Ms. Guerin is purposefully fed wrong information to lead her off track. Her house is shot up in a crude intimidation attempt, but by now she will not be deterred. As she gets closer to exposing the main drug kingpin, the intimidation tactics become more menacing. She is threatened with her son’s kidnapping, and then her own death. Later, Ms. Guerin is beaten up, and even shot in the leg. A contract is finally put on her life, and she is killed execution style at the traffic light where the movie began.
Veronica Guerin’s death, however, serves as a catalyst to mobilize the public to finally put an end to the rampant drug dealing in Dublin. Legislation is passed which makes the assets of suspected drug lords subject to confiscation by the authorities unless they can prove their money was obtained through legitimate means.
After an uneven directorial track record with inconsequential, rather flamboyant movies, Joel Schumacher takes a decisively serious turn. With a sad, haunting musical score and gritty cinematography he ultimately presents a sobering, emotionally charged presentation. At the very beginning, Schumacher seems to verge on reverting back to his usually garish and over the top style by putting too much make up on the teenage addicts, while surrealistically littering the ground with too many syringes.
Schumacher, however, soon gets back on track, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer possibly makes the right choice as well by steering clear from turning this movie into a feminist rights vehicle such as NORMA RAE or SILKWOOD. Cate Blanchett as Ms. Guerin takes full command of a very credible Irish accent, and though coming across a bit young and superficial for the part, she manages to pull it off successfully. If there is a weakness in the movie, it is the limited development of few characters while leaving the rest of the cast as mere cutouts. On the other hand, the vicious and grubby drug dealers were frightfully realistic.
Very little has been said about Veronica Guerin’s faith, although it is fair to assume that she had been brought up in the Catholic Church. We do know that she was happily married, and though not perfect by a long shot (she routinely broke the speed limit with her sports car), she was loved by her family, husband and son. Criticisms and second-guessing can always take place about Ms. Guerin’s motivations, her investigative methods, and how accurately Joel Schumaker portrays her accomplishments. Questions have also been raised about whether she should have put her family first and let the bad guys go.
For all her faults, Veronica Guerin correctly detected a serious problem in her society and moved to bring attention to it by using the tools of her trade. Through her persistence, her tireless research, and the power of her word processor, she achieved what the Irish government could not, or would not, do. Whatever her motivations or tactics may have been, she had the inner fortitude and courage to see it through, and bring about change for the better. In the end, Ms. Guerin, even if unknowingly, put the words of the Apostle Paul to Titus into practice: “And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful.”
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Michael Eisner, Chairman/CEO
Buena Vista Distribution Co.
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Dick Cook, Chairman
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Phone: (818) 560-1000
SUMMARY: VERONICA GUERIN tells the shocking and disturbing story of a newspaper reporter in Ireland, who gave her life to rid Dublin’s streets of the effects of a tolerated drug system. With rough and violent images, foul language and sexual elements, VERONICA GUERIN is a tough, sobering look at an evil system and the fight it took to overcome an established system of crime.
(BB, C, Pa, LLL, VVV, SS, A, DD, MM) Strong moral worldview with redemptive, self-sacrificial truths leading to overturn of evil tolerance of drug system and many secular worldview elements with dark, hopeless system portrayed in gritty way; over 36 obscenities and five profanities; violence includes people executed with guns and maimed, tortured and killed with knives off screen, and woman beaten up; implied sex and nudity but none overtly portrayed and prostitution portrayed and child prostitution implied; alcohol use; and substance abuse; smoking and many portrayals of substance abuse; and, lying, deception, and child prostitution.
GENRE: Suspense Drama