If there's one thing Joel Schumacher ain't, it's a paragon of subtlety. As an artist, his palette contains only two colours - black and white - and these he'll only slather on with the broadest of strokes. So why hire him to helm the true-life story of Dublin crime journo Veronica Guerin, who was assassinated on 26 June 1996 for probing too far and too boldly into her city's biggest drugs ring? Surely, when you're dealing with real people, real issues and a real, recent tragedy, you'd want someone capable of handling the story with some delicacy?
Not if you're producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The Bruck's always been a mass marketeer, and he knows Schumacher will make Guerin's story as palatable as possible for the US consumer. Especially when he has a script by schmaltz queen Mary Agnes Donoghue (Beaches)...
No doubt all concerned thought that, by shooting on location in some of Dublin's rougher estates on overcast days and keeping the cast homegrown Irish (except for Aussie Cate Blanchett, who plays Guerin), the movie would have a gritty, vérité feel. Not so - not when you consider the clichéd, jaunty-fiddle soundtrack, the sloppy opening shots of cherubic kiddies playing with discarded syringes, and the fact that we're repeatedly battered round the head with the movie's Message: plucky maverick journo Guerin isn't fearless, she just doesn't want to show her fear. And as for the inexplicable, jarring presence of Colin Farrell in a pointless cameo...
Even worse, the most sensitive moment - our intrepid reporter's death and funeral - is handled with such clumsy reverence that you half expect to see Blanchett lifted up to Heaven by a host of CG angels.
We're not saying that Guerin isn't deserving of a benevolent portrayal - her in-yer-face investigative style reaped results. It's just frustrating to see the material treated so cack-handedly. Even more so when the film features another superlative, transformative performance from Blanchett. It's almost tempting to say she makes Veronica Guerin worth checking out. But not that tempting.
A true story. About a real person. Who did admirable things. Told with all the finesse of a swinging sledgehammer. Our advice? Stay out of its way.