VERONICA GUERIN (by way of The General and When The Sky Falls)

In Veronica Guerin Cate Blanchett plays Joan Allen playing Sinead Hamilton in When The Sky Falls who is actually Veronica Guerin. Its okay, if that looks confusing there is a precedent for this; Kevin Spacey playing Brendan Gleeson playing Martin Cahill in The General as Martin Lynch in Ordinary Decent Criminals (possibly taking a few hints from Ken Stott’s performance in the TV movie Vicious Circle as Martin Cahill). Oh, did I mention that Martin Cahill turns up in Veronica Guerin too?

I’ll make no bones about my admiration for John Boorman’s film The General. Certainly it was a piece of mythologizing popularism, but when you have a lead character so wracked with contradiction as Cahill there is no surprise that people keep coming back to it. But to have the character played five times (three by name) in under seven years is quite remarkable. The Cahill we see briefly in Veronica Guerin is a vicious little pipsqueek, still recognisable from Gleason’s performance but with a really bad scrape over hairdo. But the fact he is there at all shows part of the problem of Veronica Guerin as a film. The story is just too complex.

It needn’t be so. There is at its heart a very simple story of a very driven journalist eventually being murdered. Blanchett certainly earns her star performance here, filling every scene with determination to justify exactly where it is going. But in its desire to both explain the complexity of Dublin’s crime scene and vilify the culprits (some of whom are now out on appeal) it loses sight of its central story. Is this a story about drugs in Dublin, or the tragedy of a woman’s murder. It wants to be the former – to justify Veronica’s death, it ought to be the latter.

Oh and Joel Schumacher watch: he is amazingly subdued until the last ten minutes when all hell breaks loose and he blows his Bruckheimer budget on slow motion, crane shots and a trad Irish ballad sung by a specially trained chipmunk. The odd thing is the murder should have been moving, the family reaction should have raised a tear. But the overstated sadness means that you only really feel for it when the last of the (overused) inter-titles pops up. It states that 189 journalists have dies doing their job round the world since Guerin died. If they all get at least two films made about them then good luck to ’em. I think we can leave 1990’s Dublin behind now – please.