Dir: John MacKenzie. UK-Ireland. 2000. 107 mins.

Prod cos: Irish Screen, Sky Pictures, Irish Film Board, Redeemable Features. Int'l Sales: Icon Entertainment International. UK dist: 20th Century Fox. Prods: Nigel Warren-Green, Michael Wearing. Exec prods: Kevin Menton, Peter Newman, Mary Louise Queally. Scr: Michael Sheridan, Ronan Gallagher and Colum McCann. DoP: Seamus Deasy. Prod des: Mark Geraghty. Ed: Graham Walker. Mus: Pol Brennan. Main cast: Joan Allen, Patrick Bergin, Liam Cunnigham, Pete Postlethwaite.

A flawless performance from Joan Allen is the strongest element in this fictionalised biography of Irish journalist Veronica Guerin. Screenplay and direction offer an unflinching portrait of the violent drug wars that scarred Dublin in the 1990s and provided the background to Guerin's emergence as a courageous champion of truth and justice. The film's failing comes in its inability to fully illuminate the personal factors that inspired Guerin to risk her life. The lack of penetrating insight into the character and a story in which the tragic conclusion is well documented suggest only a modest box office response when the film is released in the UK by Fox on June 16.

Sporting a convincing Irish accent, Allen gives a typically committed and gutsy performance as Sinead Hamilton. Sickened by the rising tide of drug addiction and death among Dublin's youth, she turns investigative reporting into a one-woman crusade against the dealers. Willing to consort with underworld figures and IRA fighters for vital scraps of information, she retains a naive belief that her journalistic integrity and high profile presence provide all the protection she needs.

As she boldly goes where others fear to tread, the film balances her efforts with those of a hardboiled detective (Bergin) thwarted by a justice system that does more to cosset the criminals than protect the victims.

Touching on issues of class and complicity, the film also has scenes of Hamilton's family life and moments of gangland mayhem that are disappointingly conventional and fail to lend extra dimensions to the drama. Despite Allen's performance, we are still left feeling we don't know the full story of what motivated this woman to do what she did.