Veronica Guerin is a feisty crime reporter for the Sunday Independent. Suddenly aware of how much Dublin's illegal drug trade is encroaching upon the lives of its working class citizens, especially the children, she becomes determined to expose the men responsible for its spread.
Guerin begins by interviewing the pre-pubescent addicts who shoot up on the street or in abandoned buildings in the housing estates. Her investigation leads her to major suppliers and John Traynor, a notable source of information about the criminal underworld. Traynor is willing to assist her to an extent but is not above misleading her in order to protect himself from nefarious drug lord John Gilligan. In order to steer her away from Gilligan, Traynor suggests Gerry Hutch, a criminal known as The Monk, is in charge of the operation. Guerin pursues him with a vengeance, only to discover he is not involved.
As Guerin's investigation deepens and she comes closer to the truth, she and her family become targets. When a bullet fired through a window in her home as a warning fails to stop her, she is shot in the leg and the life of her young son Cathal is threatened. Her husband Graham, mother Bernie, and brother Jimmy implore her to stop, but when Guerin confronts Gilligan at his home and he savagely beats her, she becomes more determined to expose him for who he is. Rather than press charges against him, which would necessitate her removal from the story, she forges ahead with her investigation.
On 26 June 1996, Guerin appears in court to respond to an accumulation of parking tickets and numerous penalties for speeding that she has ignored. She is given a nominal fine of IR£100, but while en route home she calls her mother and then her husband to report the good news. She is speaking to her office while stopped at traffic lights on red on the Naas Dual Carriageway when a motorcycle with two men on it pulls up beside her. The driver breaks the window of her car and then shoots her six times. The two flee and dispose of the bike and the gun in a nearby canal.
Guerin is mourned by her family, friends, associates and the country at large. Her violent death results in the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau and Gilligan together with several of his henchmen are tried and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. In an epilogue, we learn that "Veronica Guerin's writing turned the tide in the drug war. Her murder galvanised Ireland into action. Thousands of people took to the streets in weekly anti-drug marches, which drove the dealers out of Dublin and forced the drug barons underground. Within a week of her death, in an emergency session of the Parliament, the Government altered the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland to allow the High Court to freeze the assets of suspected drug barons."Cate Blanchett as Veronica Guerin
Gerard McSorley as John Gilligan
Ciarán Hinds as John Traynor
Brenda Fricker as Bernie Guerin
Barry Barnes as Graham Turley
Simon O'Driscoll as Cathal Turley
Don Wycherley as Chris Mulligan
Alan Devine as Gerry Hutch
Paul Ronan as Jimmy Guerin
Danielle Fox Clarke as the Girl Junkie
Stephen O'Doherty as Young Junkie
Laurence Kinlan as Young Timmy (junky)
The film was shot on location in Dublin and in Naas in County Kildare, with some scenes also being shot near Newtownmountkennedy in County Wicklow.
Colin Farrell makes an appearance as a heavily tattooed young man Guerin briefly engages in conversation about a soccer match.
The soundtrack includes "Funeral Song" and "One More Day" performed by Sinéad O'Connor, "Aftermath" by Tricky, "The Fields of Athenry", by Brian O'Donnell (although it is credited on the soundtrack as 'Bad News'), and "Everlasting Love" by U2. The score was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams.
Veronica Guerin received mixed reviews from critics, as it holds a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 138 reviews.
A. O. Scott of The New York Times called the film "a flat-footed, overwrought crusader-against-evil melodrama, in which Ms. Blanchett's formidable gifts as an actress are reduced to a haircut and an accent. Neither Mr. Schumacher nor Jerry Bruckheimer ... is famous for subtlety, and you expect a movie like this to sacrifice a measure of nuance to be appropriately rousing and emphatic. But the filmmakers have succeeded in making Guerin's fascinating story tedious and formulaic, and in making a real-life drama seem as phony as mediocre television ... [T]he storytelling is so clumsy that very little intrigue develops. Nor does much genuine emotion, a defect that Mr. Schumacher tries to overcome with clever editing and loud, swelling music. Veronica Guerin is disappointing in its lazy glibness; it wastes a somber and heroic story that could have made a fine movie."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times noted, "Cate Blanchett plays Guerin in a way that fascinated me for reasons the movie probably did not intend. I have a sneaky suspicion that director Joel Schumacher and his writers ... think of this as a story of courage and determination, but what I came away with was a story of bone-headed egocentrism ... The film ends with the obligatory public funeral, grateful proles lining the streets while type crawls up the screen telling how much Guerin's anti-drug crusade accomplished. These are standard prompts for us to get a little weepy at the heroism of this brave martyr, but actually I think Blanchett and Schumacher have found the right note for their story."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle observed, "The film's success hinges on its avoidance of cliché – including ... the lovable anti-heroine – and what emerges is an arresting portrait of a fascinating and somewhat mysterious personality. Congratulations to director Joel Schumacher and screenwriter Carol Doyle for not including the typical Hollywood scene, which usually comes right before the climax, in which the protagonist sums up why she's willing to sacrifice all ... Aside from one lapse into sentimentality ... Joel Schumacher has crafted a smart, brisk thriller. More than that, he's given us a compelling character study and a celebration of a kind of modern woman who just did not exist a few generations ago: competent, professional, living on a cell phone, working into the night."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the film two out of four stars and commented, "Cate Blanchett is the spark that keeps this well-meaning but by-the-numbers biopic going."
Derek Elley of Variety stated, "It's slickly packaged, looks good in widescreen and toplines Cate Blanchett, but producer Jerry Bruckheimer and helmer Joel Schumacher ... seem boxed in by the very recent story and by the challenge of making a driven, rather foolhardy newspaperwoman into a sympathetic figure. So they have taken an accessible, generic approach to the material, treating it as a star vehicle, with Blanchett, who's in almost every scene, driving the [picture] (though in one of her most actorly and emotionally least convincing [performances])."
Peter Keough of the Boston Phoenix said the film "is based on falsehoods" and added, "But this is a Jerry Bruckheimer movie directed by Joel Schumacher, and shameless exploitation and cheap sentiment take precedence over difficult truths. Instead of a genuine tale of courage, folly, and corruption, this is a crude cartoon of good versus evil that includes Blanchett's worst performance and a conclusion that is one of the more repulsive pieces of emotional pornography since Bruckheimer's Pearl Harbor. Ciarán Hinds brings a touch of class and authenticity with his redolent portrayal of Guerin's underworld contact, John Traynor, but Guerin deserved better, and audiences do too."
Philip French of The Observer called the film "a gripping thriller" "directed by Joel Schumacher at his least mannered" and "produced with uncharacteristic restraint by the leading action movie producer, Jerry Bruckheimer."
Cate Blanchett was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama but lost to Charlize Theron in Monster, and the Empire Award for Best Actress, which she lost to Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, Vol. 1.
Irish Film & Television Award nominations went to Ciarán Hinds, Gerard McSorley, and Brenda Fricker for their performances, Brendan Galvin for Best Cinematography, Joan Bergin for Best Costume Design, and Dee Corcoran and Ailbhe Lemass for Best Hair/Make-Up. The film won the UGC Cinemas Audience Award for Best Irish Film.
Joel Schumacher won the Solidarity Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.
The Region 2 DVD was released on 26 January 2004, and the Region 1 DVD was released two months later on 16 March. It is in anamorphic widescreen format with audio tracks in English and French and subtitles in Spanish. Bonus features include commentary by Joel Schumacher; commentary by screenwriters Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue; Public Mask, Private Fears, which includes cast and crew interviews; A Conversation with Jerry Bruckheimer; a deleted scene recreating Guerin's speech to the Committee to Protect Journalists; and historical footage of Guerin's speech.