A martyr is one thing, a Superwoman another.       

VERONICA GUERIN

An Illusion review by Joan Ellis


           Cate Blanchett is a master of versatility.  She inhabits characters the way the rest of us inhabit ourselves.  She becomes “Veronica Guerin” as she imagines her – a strong, relentless, investigative reporter on the Irish drug problem.  The real Veronica Guerin may have been all these things, but something is out of proportion in this movie, and it may well be that Blanchett’s Veronica is just too strong in comparison to the friends, family, and colleagues we see around her.  The supporting cast is painted in such muted colors that our eyes can go nowhere but to the heroine. 

                Granted that the real life Veronica, who was murdered in 1996, must have been both heroic and brave, in the movie, she lacks any of the inner turmoil that would surely (wouldn’t it?) accompany one woman’s lone crusade against drug dealers.  She is supported by a kind husband (Barry Barnes, in a lovely performance) and a sweet young son, but she seems untroubled by the fact that every woman is hostage to her children’s safety until they grow up. 

To track Ireland’s powerful drug lord (Gerard McSorley) at a time when police and press were terrified of him can be seen as courageous by some, reckless by others; but Guerin’s pursuit without backup or protection leaves her family at enormous risk; and it leaves her on borrowed time.  There is no way that to know whether this decision by Guerin is portrayed accurately or whether it is a Jerry Bruckheimer special.  He has turned Guerin into a wisecracking superhero fighting for truth, justice and the Irish way.  This does no justice to the murdered heroine. 

With the exception of a fine performance by Ciaran Hinds as an informer, the police and her newspaper colleagues are bland stereotypes, a painted backdrop for the Superwoman Mr. Bruckheimer and director Joel Schumacher saw in their fantasies.  As the final scene and a written paragraph tell us with such strength, Guerin’s death brought Ireland’s people out of their stone houses into the streets in a wave of tribute.  A martyr is one thing, a Superwoman another.  

Blanchett lets Guerin’s terror show several times, the only humanizing touch in this heroic portrait.  Otherwise the long-limbed, fast-talking beauty charms her way through the underworld to the very top where her martyrdom is ensured.  She wanted to count in real life, and she did.  She had the extraordinary kind of courage necessary for her goal.  After her death, crime rates dropped 15% and the government gave itself powers to curtail drug lords. 

It will be hard, after seeing this movie, to think of Veronica Guerin in any other way.  Both she and Cate Blanchett are diminished by the Bruckheimer touch.  We can try to remember Guerin as the honorable crusader she was, and remember Cate Blanchett for her marvelous work in other movies.  She didn’t have much choice, given this set of filmmakers other than to become a comic strip heroine. 


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