It's a truism that Cate Blanchett can do no wrong; it's those around her who are the problem. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Joel Schumacher have suffered enough at the hands of critics; let me not be guilty of piling on. This time it's the script, by Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue, based on a story by Ms. Doyle; it's so schematic you expect to see the writers' wall of post-it notes in the background of every shot. In "Veronica Guerin" Ms. Blanchett plays the feisty Dublin columnist who decides to go after the drug lords who've been preying on the poor and the young, and by exposing them bring them to justice. Very commendable, of course, but this movie makes her out to be blind to danger, heedless of her safety and stupid in her dealings with the bad guys; long before the end even Blanchett's acting genius has run out of ways to keep us with her.
The film opens on the day in 1996 when she is fatally ambushed by the vicious drug gang headed by John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley in the Idi Amin role; he is truly frightening). It then goes back two years, to pick up Veronica when she first discovers that drugs are killing the poor of Dublin and decides to take on the criminals behind them. She is married (Graham Turley in a role so icky he barely gets to say more than "Are you sure you want to do this?" and "Won't you come to bed now?" as she types through the night) and has a young son, whom she treats like the family dog - an occasional pet or hug is about it for him. All of which could be fascinating, even moving, as a portrait of a crusader who's sacrificed her emotional life for the rigors (and pleasures) of writing an exposť.
But it is, as we say, not to be. Instead she has some ongoing dealings with a pimp (Ciaran Hinds) in Gilligan's gang, who sometimes gives her good tips and sometimes misleads her deliberately. She has increasingly violent confrontations with the gang, and gets a brutal beating at the hands of Gilligan, but those episodes have less power than they should, both because she is willfully blind to the implications and because we already know how and when she will die. Veronica comes off as more of a ninny than the sophisticated, experienced columnist we've been hoping for. If there is a tragedy here, that is it.