Ho-hum. Another good cop/bad cop film. Luckily, 2008's "Pride and Glory" has a decent cast, headed up by Edward Norton and Colin Farrell, or it could have been even worse. Note, however, that star actors no longer seem to ensure a positive critical reception or a good box office. The presence of megastars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino did nothing to help "Righteous Kill."
As it turns out, "Pride and Glory" only skims the surface of its characters and offers nothing new in the way of corrupt law enforcement. If it weren't for its two lead actors, New Line Cinema might have issued it straight to video. Instead, we got a theatrical release and now a Blu-ray and DVD release. Well, at least the movie's got a tolerable first half.
So, which actor plays Pride and which one plays Glory? I doubt that screenwriter Joe Carnahan ("Narc," "Smokin' Aces") nor director Gavin O'Connor ("Tumbleweeds," "Miracle") had any such thing in mind. The title, from a story by first-time film writer Robert Hopes, just sounds good, and like the movie itself promises more than it delivers.
The film begins with a New York City police raid that goes bad, leaving four cops shot to death. It was a squad belonging to Francis Tierney, Jr. (Noah Emmerich), a second-generation policeman on his way to becoming a full Inspector. Tierney's credentials run in the family. His father, Francis Tierney, Sr. (Jon Voight), is an NYPD Captain; his brother, Ray Tierney (Ed Norton), is an NYPD Detective; and his brother-in-law, Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), is an NYPD Sergeant. The problem we discover early on is that Tierney's squad is dirty, and, worse, that Jimmy is the leader of the rogue unit, taking drug money and killing people seemingly at will.
Faithful to the ironies of Hollywood film tradition, it is true-blue Ray whom the department assigns to investigate the murders of the cops; and, naturally, in doing so he uncovers evidence against his brother-in-law and even his own brother. Cops protect their own brother cops and their own brothers.
What to do, what to do....?
The first half of the film is almost as much about the Tierney and Egan families as it is about the crimes committed. Actually, this first half opens up pretty well, as we learn more about the characters, and Ray starts getting closer to the truth. It's not simply a set of inter-police conflicts involved but interfamily conflicts, too.
All well and good. Unfortunately, that's about as far as it goes. The film never develops the characters beyond their initial stereotypes, and the family problems just grow out of proportion. Yes, the script lays it on pretty thick. For example, Ray lives on a leaky boat. Why? No reason. It just looks cool that way. In addition, he's divorcing his wife. Why? No reason. It just creates more emotion. Besides that, Francis, Jr.'s wife is dying of cancer. Why? No reason again. It just elicits more sympathy. And Francis, Sr. drinks too much. Why? No reason except that he's Irish, and that's what they do. These are ways the scriptwriter tries to add color to the characters, but in doing so, he waters things down with clichés.
Along the way, Farrell's character almost gets lost. While Farrell gets co-billing with Norton, Farrell's part is much smaller, the actor relegated to playing a mere thug. Meanwhile, Norton steals the show as always, yet it's not enough. Norton is one of my favorite actors, and he gives it his best shot, but his role seems too much like the tough characters he's played before. If Norton can't make the movie work, nobody can. Not even he can compete against a tired, flimsy screenplay.
In its favor, the movie's strong suit is its realism. Director O'Connor films largely on location in New York City, capturing the underbelly of the town and its denizens pretty well. The shady alleys, the dim lighting, the scummy-looking creeps infesting the sidewalks all provide a glimpse into a world we know exists but would rather not think about. And apparently NYPD cops can't utter a complete sentence without using the F word at least once--two or three times if they're on a roll. I guess they're all under a great deal of stress. Moreover, they all speak in a street language that practically needs English captions to understand.
It's too bad the plot degenerates in the second half, becoming increasingly more violent (for violence's sake) and more preposterous (for melodrama's sake). Not that there isn't corruption in a lot of police departments (and heaven knows the NYPD has seen its share), but the film exaggerates everything too much, and it's all been told before. "Pride and Glory" is like three or four different crooked cop stories all jammed into one motion picture.
The movie ends in some climactic events that seem way too inflated to ring true, culminating in a ridiculous brawl in an Irish pub to the tune of an Irish jig on the jukebox, followed by yet another incident so unlikely it all gets silly. What should have been a tense, serious, revealing police story and character study ends up as just another over-the-top action thriller. "Pride and Glory" is a disappointment considering all that it should have had going for it.
New Line video engineers offer the film in its native 1.85:1 aspect ratio, using a 1080p transfer, a VC-1 codec, and a single-layer BD25 Blu-ray disc. There is a degree of film grain that gives the picture a realistically gritty texture, especially in dimmer scenes, which are many. It is a fairly dark film in general, appropriate to the story's murky subject matter, the director choosing a predominately bluish-black palette to tell his tale. Bright colors do stand out vividly when they occur, although that isn't often. The biggest drawbacks I found in the video were that black levels aren't always too intense during nighttime scenes, images often look too smoothed out, and the overall screen appearance is slightly glassy and glossy.
Although the disc contains only an English soundtrack, it comes in two flavors: lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1, with regular DD 5.1 the default. Remember to switch to TrueHD if you can decode it, and it will reward you well. As with so many films these days, the audio outshines the video and in this case far surpasses the story line.
In TrueHD you get a terrific sense of surround, with music, crowds, gunshots, fires, and street noises all encircling the listening area. The midrange sounds natural and well balanced; the bass is prodigious; the highs are sparkling; and the dynamic impact impresses with power and authority.
Besides the usual material, the disc contains one major bonus item, a sixty-seven-minute documentary called "Source of Pride: The Making of Pride and Glory," presented in standard definition. It's an extremely detailed account of how the filmmakers went about making the movie to look as authentic as possible, but the doc contains maybe more detail than we need to know. If this movie had been "Gone With the Wind," I could understand the value of such a long-winded supplement. But "Pride and Glory" is an ordinary film, and the documentary takes itself much too seriously.
The more usual extras include thirty-two scene selections but no bookmarks; a digital copy disc of the film, compatible with iTunes and Windows Media devices; English as the only spoken language; Spanish subtitles; English captions for the hearing impaired; and a slipcover for the Blu-ray case.
Put "Pride and Glory" into the run-of-the-mill category of crime sagas, despite a fine performance by Edward Norton and some lifelike portrayals of New York City lowlifes. The movie offers little we either haven't seen before or couldn't predict a half an hour into the plot. Some viewers will find its abrasive realism and violent action exciting and hard-hitting. I thought the film went overboard early on and never recovered.