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Flick Chick

Published October 22, 2003 at 4:00 p.m.

Sometimes even a remarkable real-life story and stellar performances do not add up to a film that can galvanize an audience. Veronica Guerin -- which opens this weekend at The Roxy in Burlington -- is based on actual events in Ireland during the mid-1990s. The premise involves a crusading reporter who exposes the ruthless drug lords intent on pushing heroin in Dublin's working-class neighborhoods. That would seem to be a natural for the big screen.

How could anyone mess it up? Just watch. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, best known for mindless action-adventures such as Armageddon, and director Joel Schumacher, a veteran of two Batman movies, try to turn this European tale into an American blockbuster. The script, by Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue, squeezes every last drop of sentimentality from an already heart-rending saga. Worse yet, these Holly-wood carpetbaggers don't just telegraph the ending, they instant-message the damn thing in the very first scene.

Nevertheless, it's still worth the ticket price to witness the luminous Cate Blanchett portraying the title character with a spot-on brogue. Guerin covers the crime beat for a major newspaper. When she sees discarded hypodermic needles littering the streets where children play, her nose for news leads to an unrelenting investigation into who's selling smack to the city's junkies.

Guerin has a loving family that includes a husband, young son and mother (Brenda Fricker). There's a lot at stake as the thugs she's after grow more and more violent. Yet the journalist is undeterred, even in the face of terrible threats and actual attacks.

Apart from the quest for a good scoop, the narrative never quite explains what motivates Guerin to take increasingly foolish risks. It's a bit reminiscent of slasher movies, in which victims inevitably decide to go their separate ways despite the obvious safety in numbers. This picture is much more intelligent, of course, but the protagonist also seems inexplicably naïve.

Her digging unearths the dirty deeds of a few fabulously complex villains. Traymor (Ciaran Hinds) is a crooked and double-crossing informer who likes to see his name in print. Seasoned actor Gerard McSorley gives Gilligan, an enigmatic underworld boss, a ghastly streak of viciousness. The filmmakers reveal Guerin's murder at the outset, so this review is not a spoiler: She is assassinated.

Cue the heavenly angels. Cue Blan-chett's ethereal Lord of the Rings elf queen. With a Celtic dirge on the soundtrack, the Emerald Isle mourns and Guerin appears to qualify for instant sainthood. Someone who dies so tragically surely doesn't deserve such overkill. What's the Gaelic word for schmaltz?

As autumn leaves start to fall, a metaphorical curtain is rising at the World Cinema Series in Montpelier. Every Saturday and Sunday, October 18 through December 14, the Savoy Theater will host afternoon screenings of fare from France, Spain, Finland, England, Palestine, Russia and China.

Le Cercle Rouge, never before released in the U.S., is the granddaddy of the bunch. Jean Pierre-Melville's newly restored 1970 thriller stars Yves Montand and Alain Delon as men from opposite sides of the law involved in a jewel heist.

L'Auberge Espagnole, which enjoyed a recent run in Burlington, brings together exchange students from various lands to share a Barcelona apartment. In the amnesia genre, Aki Kaurismaki's The Man Without a Past -- also on tap this week at the Queen City's Vermont International Film Festival -- would probably make a fine double-bill with Memento.

Man on the Train, featuring French icons Jean Rochefort and Johnny Hally-day, concerns a schoolteacher and a bank robber who might like to trade places. Javier Bardem has the lead role in Mondays in the Sun, about a group of unemployed friends who find unorthodox ways to earn a living.

The Heart of Me presents a mid-20th-century romantic triangle, with Helena Bonham Carter playing a woman who falls for her sister's husband. The surreal tragicomedy Divine Intervention explores the awful deadlock of the Middle East with minimalist irony.

Cuckoo, an antiwar fable, shows the absurdity that's possible when three people from different cultures try to co-exist on a remote Finnish reindeer farm in 1944. Director Chen Kaige treks to modern-day Beijing for Together, the story of a father and his violin-wunderkind son struggling with the perils of potential success.

Call 229-0509 or visit www.savoy for more details on the series.

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Susan Green


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