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Joel Schumacher
Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorley, Ciarán Hinds, Brenda Fricker, Don Wycherley, Barry Barnes, Simon O'Driscoll, Emmet Bergin, Charlotte Bradley
Writing Credits:
Carol Doyle (story / screenplay), Mary Agnes Donoghue

Why would anyone want to kill Veronica Guerin?

From producer Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Academy Award nominee Cate Blanchett comes Veronica Guerin, the action-packed, critically acclaimed true story about the journalist who risked everything in search of the truth. In the mid-1990s, Dublin was nothing short of a war zone as the most powerful and dangerous drug lords battled for absolute control. But their most fearsome opponent wasn't the police, it was the courageous Veronica Guerin (Blanchett). Balancing home and family against her responsibility to her readers and country, she stopped at nothing to expose them. This suspense-filled and thrilling story will stun you with its power.

Box Office:
$17 million.
Opening Weekend
$611.276 thousand on 472 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.569 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 3/16/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director Joel Schumacher
• Audio Commentary with Writers Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue
• Deleted Scene
• “The Real Veronica Guerin Speaks At the Committee to Protect Journalists”
• “Public Mask, Private Fears” Making of  Featurette
• A Conversation with Producer Jerry Bruckheimer
• Producer’s Photo Diary with Jerry Bruckheimer
• THX Optimizer
• Sneak Peeks


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Veronica Guerin (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 6, 2004)

Though most associate producer Jerry Bruckheimer with big action spectaculars like Armageddon and Bad Boys 2, he does occasionally branch out into softer material. For example, he shepherded the feel-good hit .

With 2003’s Veronica Guerin, Bruckheimer heads into darker territory. Set in Dublin, the film opens on June 26, 1996. We meet Veronica (Cate Blanchett), an investigative reporter for a local paper. She goes to court due to her almost 1200 parking tickets and other traffic offenses, but she manages to keep her license anyway. On the way home, we see an anonymous thug who pulls up on his motorcycle and attacks her in her car.

The film immediately jumps back two years, where text tells us that drug trade and use in Ireland was then at an all-time high. Best known for reporting about church scandals and corporate corruption, Veronica took on crime, and that led her deep into the world of drugs to investigate. She initially concentrates on the dealings of local thug Martin Cahill (Gerry O’Brien). A vicious and sadistic crime boss, she refers to him as “The General” and thinks he may be an important figure in the drug trade. She gets material from her informant, another criminal named Johnny Traynor (Ciarin Hinds).

The movie follows Veronica’s growing involvement in the story. She delves deeper into the matters and eventually learns of a quiet force behind the scenes via crime boss John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley). Matters slowly intensify; as Veronica’s story gets more attention, the baddies start to threaten her more and more.

Probably the biggest problem found in the films of producer Bruckheimer and director Joel Schumacher stems from their lack of depth. That doesn’t become a big issue for action romps like The Rock or Batman Forever, but when we go for something more character-based like Guerin, it turns into a major flaw.

Going into Guerin, I hoped that maybe the combination of Bruckheimer and Schumacher would allow them to cancel out each other’s flaws. Who knows – maybe two wrongs can make a right? Unfortunately, that doesn’t occur here, as Guerin suffers from all of the problems I’d expect from the filmmakers behind it.

Mainly this means that Guerin consistently lacks the grit and heft necessary to make it work. As with Schumacher’s 8mm, Guerin presents a superficial look at its hard-edged world, but not one with any depth or force. Schumacher seems to lack the ability to create worlds with much sense of reality, as he prefers a glossy setting. On the surface, he appears to present visuals that connect with the material, but things never go beneath the surface and delve into the heart of the matters.

Frankly, Guerin comes across like a plastic take on the underworld. Schumacher talks the talk, but he can’t walk the walk. There’s too much Hollywood in this tale, which seems totally at odds with the subject matter.

This results in a very one-dimensional examination of the subjects. Blanchett is a wonderfully versatile actor; she can play roles like the ethereal Galadriel from Lord of the Rings and a down-to-earth personality like Veronica with equal ease. Unfortunately, she gets little with which to work here. The film paints Veronica as such a unilaterally driven and good character that we never find any sense of a real person. She’s little more than the ultimate reporter; the occasional doubt surfaces, but not enough to derail the flick’s mythologizing of the lead role.

It doesn’t help that Schumacher tells the tale in a vaguely incoherent manner. The 1996 prologue serves little purpose other than to make the 1994 shots of the Motorcycle Man more portentous and ominous. Why do we need to know Veronica’s ultimate fate before we see it occur? We don’t, and it seems like an odd choice that does little more than telegraph the rest of what follows it.

I also can’t figure out why Schumacher chose to tell early parts of the flick from the criminal point of view but then largely abandoned that. The movie makes the most sense when it emphasizes Veronica’s take on the world, and the majority of the movie works that way. The dabbling in the criminal environment seems inconsistent and illogical, and it makes the story jumpy and erratic.

Ultimately, it’s Schumacher’s inability to firmly depict seaminess as reality that undercuts Veronica Guerin. The director dallies in the darkness but he never embraces it enough to become convincing, and he tends to present provocative subjects in an oddly generic and unprovocative way. Guerin offers an interesting subject but it rarely manages to draw in the viewer.

Cameo note: keep an eye out for a quick unbilled bit from a certain well-known Irish actor with a reputation for partying. Oh, and we also hear from Ireland’s favorite musical sons, as a U2 song pops up at one point. At least Schumacher chose well for that; we hear their wonderful cover of “Everlasting Love”, a track so good that it’s a very good reason for anyone to pick up the two-CD version of the band’s The Best of 1980-1990. (It also appears as a “B”-side to “All I Want Is You”, but that’s tougher to find.)

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Veronica Guerin appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Unsurprisingly, the disc presented a consistently positive picture.

Sharpness almost always seemed excellent. A few wider shots seemed slightly ill-defined, but not badly. Instead, the majority of the flick came across as nicely crisp and detailed. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and only some slight edge enhancement cropped up at times. I noticed no signs of print flaws during this clean and defect-free presentation.

I think there’s a law that films set in Ireland must feature a dank, gloomy palette. Actually, I can’t complain, as it made sense here given the flick’s dark subject matter. Guerin didn’t pour on the stylization, though, as it mostly stayed reasonably natural. When appropriate, the tones looked concise and well defined, and they came across as dim when necessary. Blacks seemed quite deep and rich, and low-light shots appeared nicely depicted, without any problems connected to excessive opacity. Guerin didn’t offer an “A”-level transfer, but it came close and seemed consistently satisfying.

For Veronica Guerin, the DVD provided both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Not surprisingly, both sounded virtually identical. Guerin didn’t provide a challenging mix, so I didn’t expect any differences between the two, and I heard no differences.

The soundfield didn’t often challenge the listener, though it seemed perfectly satisfactory for this sort of material. The forward channels presented the majority of the audio. The score showed good stereo imaging, as the Irish-tinged music blended nicely with the action. The effects tended toward the atmospheric side of things and created a good feel for the settings. The track opened up a bit at times when necessary. For example, the early killing spree featured a good sense of movement and environment, and the shot through Veronica’s window even gave us solid split-surround material. The rear speakers remained generally focused on reinforcement, however, and only sporadically played a more significant role.

Across the board, audio quality seemed fine. Intelligibility of speech was an issue just because of all the accents, but the track demonstrated no problems connected to the actual recordings. The dialogue was crisp and distinctive. Effects seemed accurate and concise, and they showed no distortion or other issues. Music fared best, as the score was consistently lively and well defined. The entire package boasted nice bass response, with tight and firm low-end material. Guerin lacked the sonic ambition to earn more than a “B”, but the audio served the film well.

Though the movie earned less than two million dollars at the US box office, the DVD comes with a decent mix of extras. First we find two audio commentaries. The first features director Joel Schumacher, who offers a running, screen-specific affair. The veteran of many prior tracks, Schumacher seems comfortable with the format, but he offers an erratic discussion. The director mostly focuses on historical elements of the story. Schumacher also gets into subjects like how he came onto the project and working with the actors, but those pieces only pop up occasionally. Instead, he mostly concentrates on the facts of the tale and he gives us a decent examination of the reality behind the film. This sounds useful on the surface, but Schumacher doesn’t reveal a lot that we don’t already see in the movie. The director adds a little depth but not much, and this comes across as a pretty mediocre chat.

For the second commentary, we hear from writers Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue, both of whom sit separately for their running, screen-specific pieces; the program edits the pair of tracks together. Although the commentary offers a focus similar to that of Schumacher’s chat, the writers present a substantially more informative affair. They largely concentrate on the historical background behind the story, and they also get into specifics of the characters and let us know more about them. We also hear about research they conducted and a few script concerns. Overall, this commentary gives us a pretty good look at the real-life issues and helps flesh these out quite well; we actually come away with a fairly nice feel for the various personalities and situations.

After this we get a “making of” featurette called Public Mask, Private Fears. In this 12-minute and 59-second show, we find the standard combination of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Schumacher, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Irish journalists Willie Kealy, Anne Harris and Aengus Fanning, Veronica’s brother Jimmy Guerin, production designer Nathan Crowley, and actors Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorley, Mark Lambert, Charlotte Bradley, Garrett Keogh, Ciaran Hinds, Paudge Behan, Don Wycherley, and Barry Barnes. Among other things, we hear about Blanchett’s research and approach to the role, the facts of the situation, the film’s perspective, and shooting in Ireland. The program packs in some decent information but suffers from a scattershot approach. It flits from one subject to another without much logic and comes across as rather incoherent. Enough useful notes pop up to make it worth a look, but it needs more focus.

One deleted scene appears. “Veronica Speaks at the CPJ” lasts two minutes, 24 seconds. In this we see Veronica offer a quick speech at a ceremony. It plays up her family ties a little, but otherwise seems superfluous, so it was a good cut. Interestingly, we can also watch the actual thing in The Real Veronica Guerin Speaks At the Committee to Protect Journalists. This three-minute and 39-second clip shows the speech emulated by Blanchett. It’s very cool to see this; not only does it let us spend some time with the true-life person, but it’s especially neat to compare actual Guerin footage with Blanchett’s take.

The next two features highlight the movie’s famous producer. A Conversation with Producer Jerry Bruckheimer lasts 20 minutes and 33 seconds. Essentially this provides an abbreviated, scene-specific audio commentary, as the producer talks over clips from the film. Bruckheimer chats about the director, adapting the story, the score, the production design, the character arc, the work of Blanchett and some other actors, his favorite scenes, some aspects of the real Veronica, editing, budget considerations, shooting in Ireland, and the film’s reception. On paper, all that sounds good, but we must remember this piece involves Bruckheimer. As always, he talks a lot and says little. The producer has a real talent for sounding like he’s offering substantial information but actually communicating little. I learned almost nothing about this flick in this bland discussion.

We also get the Producer’s Photo Diary with Jerry Bruckheimer. This six-minute and 49-second piece combines Bruckheimer’s pictures from the set with his comments about the stills. He continues to say little of interest, though he offers a bit more of use here since he has to discuss the specifics of the photos. The pictures themselves are quite good, as Bruckheimer has an excellent eye.

The DVD opens with a mix of ads. We find promos for The Magdalene Sisters, Hope Springs, and Calendar Girls. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks domain along with ads for Alias and the Guerin soundtrack.

Guerin features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.

While Veronica Guerin undeniably presents a powerful story, it does so in such a thin and superficial manner that it almost totally blunts the impact. The movie seems to present the necessary components, but none of them pack a punch, and the tale comes across like much less than the sum of its parts. The DVD offers very good picture and audio as well as an erratic but fairly solid set of extras. It might merit a rental to learn more about the subject, but it seems like a flat examination of the topic.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.375 Stars Number of Votes: 16
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