It's interesting to see how people talk about how amazingly "real" and
lifelike movies have become, yet they are mostly referring to fictional
dramas, like "The Godfather". Ironically, movies that are, quote, "based
on a true story", oddly appear anything but realistic, often to a point
where it actually does the film more harm than good. "Veronica Guerin"
is the latest victim of this phenomenon.
Here, "Guerin" is based on the true story of an Irish journalist who
reported on the massive drug problem in Dublin in the late 1990s,
and whose violent death marked the turning point for major changes in
Irish law that reduced crime and drug use considerably. While the events
portrayed in the film seemed authentic enough, and you felt like you were
being walked through "just the facts, ma'am", two major problems with the
film left this reviewer with a wide open yawn: namely, the reality of what
happened are either not portrayed in the film, or are so simplistically
shown that the "reality" aspect of the film has effectively been replaced
by fictional drama; and the drama itself lacks all the qualities that
make a "story" compelling to watch: three-dimensional characters,
compelling relationships, motivations for the heroes and villains,
and justifications for why things are done or decisions made.
Basing movies on real events is certainly not new, but what is new these
days is the trend towards a "sanitized" edition of events, cinematically
embellished to heighten the mood or tone of the underlying story,
historical facts notwithstanding. Films like "A Beautiful Mind" and
"Seabiscuit" are the types of box-office crowd pleasers that "Guerin"
is trying to be, where form wins over substance. The classic mistake is
failing to develop the "dramatic" elements of the film, hoping that the
victorious heroine's story alone will be compelling enough.
Unnecessary is it to summarize the plot, condemn the script, or critique
performances since all these elements were simply static, underutilized
elements that didn't co-mingle effectively enough to tell a story beyond
the simplified statement of events. Rather, the movie plays like a
straightforward drug caper like a TV show. There's violence, but it's
all implicit (yet, intense, nevertheless). There's no bad language,
except for one scene with the same 4-letter word yelled continually. But
the intensity of some scenes will keep the 13 and under crowd from the
Whether American audiences will like "Veronica Guerin" remains to be
seen. To most Americans who know very little about true Irish culture, or
can discern intuitively a native Irish accent, the film seems true enough
to form. Yet, contrast this view with most of the Irish film reviews, who
characterize the accent of Australian Cate Blanchett as sounding almost
American, the film has all the qualities that seem to appeal to American
film-goers. Even for those who may like this style of filmmaking, I'd
be hard-pressed to believe that any of it will be remembered a week later.
You can find this movie on the internet database here: