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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Veronica Guerin
Veronica Guerin
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG-13 // March 16, 2004
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 11, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


Probably the closest thing to an independent film that producer Jerry Bruckheimer ("Armageddon", "Pirates of the Caribbean") has ever been responsible for, "Veronica Guerin" takes an interesting story and a highly talented actress and pairs them with a (legendarily) untalented director - namely Joel Schumacher, who recently made somewhat of a comeback with the moderately tense thriller, "Phone Booth".

Cate Blanchett plays Guerin, an Irish journalist who becomes increasingly tired and upset with the sight of decay that drugs have brought into her city and country. She decides to do something about it, interviewing such underworld figures as Martin Cahill (Gerry O'Brien), the "General;" Gerry Hutch (Alan Devine); John Traynor (Ciaran Hinds) and John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley).

Guerin is told early on to leave the subject alone, but gentle warnings turn more stern and brutal as she attempts to dig deeper. This is an R-rated film and rightly so; the figures that make up the drug trade that Veronica is investigating are portrayed as scary, shady and vicious people and the film doesn't shy away or PG-13ize that, as there are some chilling scenes and unsettling performances. As a result, the stand-off between Guerin and the drug dealers becomes even more tense, despite the fact that the film makes the mistake of showing what eventually happened to the journalist in the beginning of the film, making the rest a flashback.

The problem becomes in Schumacher's portrayal of the story, which is a rather simplified view of a complex story. Blanchett gives Guerin humanity, heart and depth, the last element which is missing from the material. With a mere 98 minutes to the thing (including credits, mind you), this doesn't give the film much time to give shadings to the story on either side - Guerin's decision to push forward despite obvious threats is not pondered much (and every other journalist presented in the film is made to look very incompetent in comparison to Guerin), while we also don't hear much about how the drug system worked there, just seeing the occasional behind-closed-doors style meeting. It's a surprisingly subtle film in terms of its presentation - given that this is a Bruckheimer production, the camera could circle around every conversation - but not a subtle one in terms of storytelling.

Despite some considerable issues, "Veronica Guerin"'s performances do manage to elevate the overall film somewhat. This is a surface look at a compelling, heroic story. Not bad, but could certainly have been better.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Veronica Guerin" is presented by Buena Vista in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is also a THX-certified presentation. Still, it's not without a few noteworthy issues at times. Detail is generally pretty good, but there are times when the level of definition in the image can be inconsistent. Shadow detail can also be somewhat lackluster at times.

Some compression artifacts are occasionally visible at times, but edge enhancement was rarely present. The print looked very fine, although a little bit of grain appeared at times. No noticable debris or wear was present. The film's subtle, dark-hued color palette appeared accurately rendered, with no issues.

SOUND: "Veronica Guerin" is presented here in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. The film's sound mix is surprisingly subtle, given that every movie produced by Bruckheimer seems to have an over-the-top sound design, even the relatively low-key "Coyote Ugly". The melancholy, effective score by Harry Gregson-Williams (at times, slightly reminding me of his score for "Spy Game") is a focus, presented with a full-bodied quality and nicely spread across the front speakers and reinforced by the surrounds. The rear speakers don't have much to do otherwise, employed for a couple of discrete sound effects and some scattered instances of ambience. Dialogue remained clean and easily understood throughout.

EXTRAS: Two feature-length commentaries are available: one with director Joel Schumacher and the other with screenwriters Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue. "A Conversation With Jerry Bruckheimer" is a 20-minute piece that has Bruckheimer discussing aspects of the production such as casting, adapting the story, score, production design and the editing process, among other topics. Again, while I don't always agree with the producer in his commentaries, I'm always pleased with the fact that he doesn't often make generalizations and tries to always give reasoning and analysis behind his opinions. This feature is presented as a reel of footage, with Bruckheimer talking over it. Title cards introduce new topics.

"Public Mask, Private Fears" is a 13-minute "making of" that is pretty enjoyable, compressing some interesting information about the real-life Guerin in alongside material related to this production. An elegant scene where Guerin addresses the Comittee to Project Journalists was deleted from the film, and is presented here alongside footage of the real-life Guerin addressing the group. Rounding out the supplemental section is a photo gallery with pictures that producer Bruckheimer took during the shoot (presented as a featurette) and "Sneak Peek" trailers for other Miramax/BV titles.

Final Thoughts: Strong, powerful performances from both leads and supporting players do a lot to lift "Veronica Guerin" above its somewhat underdeveloped look at the story. Buena Vista's DVD edition provides good audio/video quality and a lot of supplements. Recommended for fans, a rental for those who are interested and haven't seen it.

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