Guerin became both hero and martyr in Ireland for her dogged investigative reporting on the Dublin drug trade, particularly a nasty piece of business named John Gilligan, whom Gerard McSorley portrays with a terrifying temper.
Schumacher's film emphasizes Guerin as a boat-rocking rebel. She asks the tough questions at press conferences and intrudes in skanky brothels and Ireland's corridors of power. At times Blanchett plays Guerin like an outsider's idea of a pushy American, like the way she pointedly arches her eyebrows while chivvying her sources. But Blanchett also conveys the nerve that lets Guerin walk up to Gilligan's front door and ask for an interview, despite the consequences.
In high-intensity scenes, Guerin endures vicious beatings and a gunshot in her high-stakes pursuit of the story. But the film never uncovers why Guerin is so willing to endanger not just herself but her husband and child. The script emphasizes her belief in justice more than journalistic fame, but the reporter seems to have a self-destructive streak that goes unexamined.
The film isn't slick or glossy, but the grubbiness of Dublin slums and drug dens looks unnaturally artful. Worse is Veronica Guerin's clumsiness at conveying information, from the titles at the beginning to the out-of-nowhere narrator at the end. It only hints at the follow-the-money legwork that no doubt was the cornerstone of Guerin's accomplishment. All the President's Men and HBO's "The Wire" prove that the unglamorous nuts-and-bolts of investigations can provide compelling narratives without relying on action movie cliches.
Veronica Guerin seems to lack confidence that the reporter will be a box office draw, so it heightens the conflicts in her story until it becomes superficial. Virtually every shot and line of dialogue looks as if could be used in a potential trailer. Even after it's over, you feel like Guerin's story would make a great movie.