Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 32 min.
Our content rating (1-10): Violence 6; Language 4-; Sex/Nudity 2.
Our star Rating (1-5): 4
O Lord, how long shall the wicked,
how long shall the wicked exult?
They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the stranger, they murder the orphan,
and they say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob does not perceive.”
The date on which director Joel Schumacher’s film begins, June 26, 1996, is well known to the people of Ireland. As we see at the beginning of the film, this is the day on which that country’s most controversial journalist was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle as she waited for a traffic light to change. Veronica, always speeding because she enjoyed the fast lane in life, was talking on her cell phone at the moment, exulting that she had just left the courthouse where she had beaten the reckless driving charges against her (which, judging by what we have just seen, is a minor miscarriage of justice). The details of her crusading career leading up to her murder are given in a series of flashbacks over the previous few years, and thus, even though we know her fate, are full of suspense and drama.
Cate Blanchett affects a convincing Irish accent as the passionate Veronica Guerin, so dedicated to her anti-drug pusher crusade that she recklessly exposes herself to danger. At first merely threatened by a bullet shot through a window in her home, she is savagely beaten by drug baron John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley) when she rather foolishly rings his doorbell for an interview. (Earlier she had been beaten and shot in the leg, by a goon dispatched to intimidate her, so she should have known better than to bait the gangster in his lair!)
We might wish for a few more scenes showing the effect of all this on her husband and children, but are shown enough of her family life to realize that her persistence in exposing the criminals greatly endangered them as well. Brenda Fricker is cast in the almost cameo role of her mother, who advises her to “walk away” from the story.
The gangsters are not glamorized, as in some films, but shown as the vicious men that they are, careless of the drug-related human misery that we see in the Dublin slums that Veronica visits. Ciaran Hinds as Veronica’s criminal contact is appropriately oily and loathsome as John ‘Coach’ Traynor, and Gerard McSorley’s portrayal of the vicious John Gilligan, who has used his laundered drug money to set himself up as the proprietor of a country equestrian center, is chilling. Although Gilligan succeeds in murdering his nemesis, this leads to his downfall when both public and government officials are aroused to pass laws that allow the police to freeze and seize the assets of those accused of drug crimes.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Joel Schumacher, working with Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue’s script, have created a gripping story of modern martyrdom that will probably influence another generation to consider journalism as an exciting career choice, much as did All the President’s Men. It has been reported that a little before her untimely death Veronica Guerin, discussing with Michael Sheridan a film script based on her life, had stated that she did not want to be cast as a martyr, that the focus should be on her reporting and bringing the evil deeds of the criminals into the light. Her death, of course, insures that she is indeed a martyr, but the film succeeds fairly well in portraying her career as a prophet with a notebook who refuses to back down.
- How is Veronica Guerin’s death a “crucifixion”? And where do you see something of an Easter?
- Would you agree with those who charge that she heedlessly endangered her family? Should she have heeded her mother’s advice?
- The Scriptures tell us little about the family life of the Hebrew prophets, except that we do know that Isaiah married and had children, to whom he gave strange, prophetic names: do you think they might have been harassed through their families as Veronica was?
- How does one balance the loyalty to family and the cause of justice? (See Luke 14:25-27 for Jesus’ difficult words on the subject of divided loyalty.)
Reprinted from the Oct. 2003 issue of Visual Parables.
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