[box cover]

Veronica Guerin

What doesn't make sense here? The somber, complex, and often violent true story of an Irish journalist who finds her life threatened by a drug cartel, directed by… Joel Schumacher? The guy who's responsible for St. Elmo's Fire, Batman & Robin, and Bad Company? And produced by… Jerry Bruckheimer? The monolithic titan of Hollywood power-lunches who's responsible for selling as much popcorn as movie tickets? It's hard to know why the duo would settle upon this intricate tale of gangland intrigue and fourth-estate martyrdom — but with Cate Blanchett on the marquee, it's hard to argue with the results. Blanchett stars in Veronica Guerin (2003) as the eponymous writer, a columnist for Dublin's Sunday Independent who has achieved some notoriety for her investigative reporting, a skill she's honed after working previously as an accountant. But when she discovers a heroin epidemic among young people in Dublin's council blocks in 1994, she immediately decides she wants to know where the drugs are coming from. She's warned off from the story, both by her colleagues and one of her underworld contacts, middleman John Traynor (Ciarán Hinds). But when one of the underworld's leading players, Martin "The General" Cahill (Gerry O'Brien), and several of his enforcers are iced in a night of long knives, Guerin presses Traynor for details. Traynor immediately fingers gangster Gerry Hutch (Alan Devine), but he's actually covering for John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley), a wealthy but quiet man who has invested his drug-trade proceeds into property and an expansive equestrian center. Guerin traces the Hutch lead, but is unsure of its validity. It's only after she's shot in her own home that she defiantly goes after the money-trail, convinced that John Gilligan is her man. Gilligan, on the other hand, is convinced he'll be better off when the tenacious journalist is zipped up in a body-bag. Considering that the team of Schumacher & Simpson normally would have their eyes on blockbusters best released in holiday seasons, one can only be surprised that they would take on Veronica Guerin, which — while a solid film with excellent performances all around — would appear to have the stench of death at the U.S. box-office. None of the actors are American, and the only genuine star is Blanchett. Besides her, the rest of the cast is entirely Irish — apparently American film stars working with a dialogue coach needed not apply. One has to admire the approach — with just a seven-week shooting schedule, it's probably the closest Schumacher & Simpson will come to making an indie. But even the modest $17 million budget was a wash; opening on less than 500 screens, Guerin didn't clear $2 million domestically. Perhaps then home video is a better fit for this subject matter. While Guerin's two-year odyssey is familiar to Irish audiences (her murder shocked the country and caused the Irish Constitution to be amended so that authorities could pursue drug-traffickers more aggressively), the multi-character story is an elaborate investigative procedural, and most American viewers will want to have the English subtitles on to catch all of the dialogue. However, it's no more involved than All the President's Men, and Blanchett's searing lead performance is one of her best yet, proving that she's one of cinema's most thoughtful and engaging leading women. The Irish cast includes the marvelous Ciarán Hinds as the muscle who's caught in the middle of Guerin's turf war, while Brenda Fricker lends support in a few scenes as Guerin's mother. And not to be missed is Gerard McSorley as kingpin John Gilligan, a refined gentleman whose flashes of violent temper make him the most terrifying and memorable screen gangster since Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. You probably didn't see it in theaters — spin this one at home instead. Buena Vista's DVD release of Veronica Guerin features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include two commentaries, one with director Schumacher, the second with scenarists Mary Agnes Donoghue and Carol Doyle, the behind-the-scenes featurette "Public Mask, Private Fears" (13 min.), the featurette "Conversations with Jerry Bruckheimer" (20 min.), video footage of Guerin speaking at a Committee to Protect Journalists awards banquet, a deleted scene with Blanchett recreating the same event, and Bruckheimer's photo diary (6 min.). Keep-case.

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