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Godfathers: Inside Northern Ireland's Drug Racket
by Jim McDowell




Veronica Guerin:
The Life and Death of a Crime Reporter


. "Veronica Guerin"

Investigative journalists are trouble seekers. It's the nature of the work. But sometimes a little too deep a search, a little too much crusading, can get you into a hole with the kind of characters who have vicious ways to make you go away. Veronica Guerin was obsessed. It prevented her from seeing how deep she had crawled, how dangerous her investigations and her audacity had become.

Veronica Guerin (Cate Blanchett) was someone who could do something about children shooting dope on the street. At least as much as a newspaper column could do to influence laws and their application. Writing for Ireland's top newspaper, the Sunday Independent, she pursued and reported on the drug lords of Dublin's underworld where power and control are as prized as money.

Despite her chic appearance, she plunged down where the subjects of her investigation took her, where high heels and neat coif only make you an object of the "other side." But she played the system in these gutters and bars the way she had to, which included the development of an inside source who was, by and large, trusted by the big boys. This is John "The Coach" Traynor (Ciaran Hinds), a notorious, lecherous dealer in his own right.

Turns out, he had a narcissistic longing for attention, if not fame. That, plus the idea that he might one day bed Guerin, a fantasy that she, herself, didn't fully disabuse him of so long as he was feeding her intel, kept him somewhat faithful as her primary confidential informant. But, as she gets closer and closer to Traynor's boss John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley), the info he's furnishing becomes more and more suspect.

Calling on Guerin for a full court press to Gilligan himself. Her presence on his doorstep means that his secretive existence is about to be splashed about in the media, something he considers his primary protection. When she threatens exposure in her column and insults him to boot she hardly realizes how like this is to shaking a hibernating black bear in his cave. She is sooo surprised when this sociopath punches and bloodies her and warns that if he sees his name in print he'll kidnap her son and rape him, then kill her.

Her thought that there could be an element of bluff from a man capable of the most sadistic forms of pain was an incredible miscalculation. Her decision to press charges against him for the attack is her first step into the grave, culminating in her being shot dead behind the wheel of her red car. This really happened. It was 1996.

Guerin and her writings are credited with ultimately freeing Ireland of drugs and monster criminals the like of Gilligan. Her crusading paid off, but not for her personally, nor for her family. One is aghast at the impossibility of convincing this intelligent woman how close to mortal danger she had taken herself. As the only Guerin in the phone book besides her brother, she incredibly convinced herself that her home and the law provided safe harbor from the bad people.

The error in judgement is as staggering as the outcome.

Cate Blanchett brings intensity and class to a slick production under the directorial eyes of Joel Schumacker. The forceful and dynamic performance might resound to her credit with consideration around Oscar time, but commercial prospects are limited. Supporting players Brenda Fricker and McSorley are top notch, with a special nod to the criminal shadings provided by Ciaran Hinds. This is an actor who can deliver a lot in a part that fits his talent and this one does the job. Also fun was a brief, understated but oh so visible cameo by Colin Farrell as Irish soccer fan Spanky McSpank.

The film plays well as a public service in bringing to world attention the details of the alarming event and, perhaps, as a cautionary tale for students in Journalism 101.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


The Soundtrack Album




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Cate Blanchett as Veronica Guerin
A self-endangering crusader

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