[Screen It]

(2003) (Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorley) (R)

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Drama: Despite increasing dangers, a reporter digs deeper into the world of narcotics and drug dealers in 1990s Dublin.
It's 1996 Dublin and Veronica Guerin (CATE BLANCHETT) is a tenacious reporter for The Sunday Dependent. For the past two years she's been covering the increasing drug trade on the city streets. Married to Graham Turley (BARRY BARNES) with whom she has a young child, she hates seeing the dealers selling their drugs to kids and has set out to expose the problem.

While that's caught the eye of local cop Chris Mulligan (DON WYCHERLEY) and Parliament member Tony Gregory (GARRETT KEOGH), she's more interested in getting the attention of those she expects are involved in the trade, including Gerry Hutch (ALAN DEVINE), Martin Cahill (GERRY O'BRIEN) and Brian Meehan (PAUDGE BEHAN). Her biggest target, however, is businessman John Gilligan (GERARD MCSORLEY) who's fresh out of prison and none too happy to have a reporter nosing around.

Despite worries from her family, including mother Bernie (BRENDA FRICKER), and a series of threats and warnings, Veronica continues on her quest and hopes to use various sources, including her shady associate, John Traynor (CIARAN HINDS), to nail Gilligan and his cohorts.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Ever notice how certain people can walk into a room and instantly light up the place through their looks, presence and/or demeanor? Certain movie performers have that same "it" quality. Case in point is Colin Farrell. Although he's threatening to become overexposed by his frequent and numerous roles of recent, he effortlessly exudes that screen commanding presence.

Thus, when he shows up in a scene with the titular protagonist of "Veronica Guerin," you have the feeling that things are finally going to pick up. After all, up to that point, this big screen look at the real life Dublin reporter who met her demise at the hands of unhappy drug lords is surprisingly flat and mediocre.

Alas, even Farrell's presence can't break that spell as his is only a fleeting cameo appearance. All of which is too bad since the film obviously has so much built-in potential. While the woman and her exploits might not be known by those outside Ireland, her untimely death was the cultural equivalent of J.F.K. or Lady Di's passing. Simply put, her murder rocked the nation and resulted in a great deal of reform in how the government then dealt with known and suspected drug dealers.

Thus, one would think and expect that a cinematic look at that event and the elements leading up to it would be interesting, engaging and maybe even moving. As directed by Joel Schumacher ("Phone Booth," "Bad Company") from a script by Carol Doyle ("Washington Square") and Mary Agnes Donoghue ("White Oleander," "Beaches"), however, little of the effort escapes the mundane.

Granted, knowledge of the real life historical events take away much of the surprise ending. Yet, even those unfamiliar with any of that will probably find much of the offering as listless and flat. That's not to say that it's bad, but rather just run of the mill.

Despite the obvious inherent dangers of a female reporter nosing around a male-dominated drug trade (in the land of the I.R.A. no less), the filmmakers do little in recreating that sense of pending peril. Granted, there are several disturbing scenes, but for the most part the effort lacks the energy and compelling elements it so desperately needs.

A big part of that problem lies with the plot's overall investigatory material. To accomplish her goal - that's similar in nature to that of many a real life and/or cinematic reporter - she must do some detective work to get to both the top and bottom of the matter. Unfortunately, and despite some far too obvious red herring characters, this crucial element is also surprisingly inert and not particularly interesting.

As the title character, Cate Blanchett ("The Shipping News," "Bandits") is suitably believable playing the determined and occasionally reckless reporter. That said, some of her actions and mostly defiant attitude make one somewhat question the historical accuracy and/or artistic license at play. Even so, and like the overall film, though, there's something missing in the portrayal of the character that would otherwise engage the viewer and make us care or worry about her endeavor and safety.

Gerard McSorley ("Bloody Sunday," "Angela's Ashes") is appropriately menacing as the lead drug figure, but his character never really develops much beyond his mostly one-dimensional underpinnings. A bit more interesting is Ciaran Hinds ("Road to Perdition," "The Sum of all Fears") as the reporter's shady associate who seems torn between wanting to help her and save his own hide from Gilligan's volatile temper.

The likes of Barry Barnes ("Reign of Fire," "Ordinary Decent Criminal") as Veronica's husband, Brenda Fricker ("A Time to Kill," "Moll Flanders") playing her mother, and Don Wycherley ("When Brendan Met Trudy," "The General") as a local cop are okay, but aren't afforded the opportunity to do much with their characters. Considering the current and pending impact of the protagonist's actions on her safety and family life, that's a bit of a shame regarding Barnes' character and his interaction with her (a few token scenes are there, but not enough).

Overall, the film works in getting from point A to point Z. Yet, it clearly isn't the intriguing, engaging or moving experience it could and should have been, particularly when we should be rooting for the protagonist to succeed in her worthy if dangerous endeavor. The disappointingly flat "Veronica Guerin" rates as just a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed October 14, 2003 / Posted October 17, 2003

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