How do so many talented people go so far awry? Edward Norton is usually very smart about the projects he picks (even The Incredible Hulk was a smart movie and the failure of it was not his fault) and Colin Farrell has shown signs of life in the past with recent underrated performances in Cassandra's Dream and In Bruges. When they heard the pitch for Pride and Glory, they must have assumed that they would be making a gritty cop drama like The Departed or a modern update of L.A. Confidential set in NYC. Where did it derail? Where did it turn into ridiculous, unbelievable melodrama of the variety that makes my skin crawl it's so derivative and predictable? Pride and Glory is one of those absolute messes that mistakes monologues for character development and thinks it has a much more exciting story than it actually does. We've seen this movie about corrupt cops and the families they take down a thousand times before, but rarely has it been so bafflingly inept in its execution.
Pride and Glory opens with the murder of four police officers in a decrepit New York drug den. From the beginning, the situation doesn't look right. Not only is it hard to explain what the cops were doing there at all, but also it seems like maybe they walked into an ambush. What's going on here? It turns out the cops weren't on the up-and-up, and the investigation into their murders will involve a traumatized investigator named Ray Tierney (Edward Norton), his commanding officer of a brother named Francis (Noah Emmerich), his crazy brother-in-law named Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), and even his angry father, Francis Sr. (Jon Voight). Pride and Glory is an old-fashioned cop drama, a story that features bad cops and good cops and no one in between. What will Ray do when his investigation leads him back to his own front door?
The flaws of the screenplay for Pride and Glory are many but it all comes back to one thing - an insane lack of subtlety. Every line of dialogue is either meant to move the overly complex plot forward or a cliche about the brotherhood of cops. It's manipulation of the highest order, giving the audience melodrama instead of character development, and it climaxes in a final act that is easily one of the most unbelievable of the year. Until then, the endless stream of angry exchanges about finding the killers and protecting our own become numbing to the point that even Norton falls victim to the horrendous script, giving arguably the most half-asleep performance of his career. And the maudlin subplots, including giving Francis a wife who's dying of cancer for no other reason than to make him even more likable (Jimmy takes money for greed while Francis won't even take it to help his wife or deal with the impending single fatherhood staring him in the face) and every single scene with Papa Voight, are manipulation of the highest degree. Voight gives one of the most scenery-chewing, ridiculous performances of the year. Farrell comes to life a bit, but his character is a worthless scumbag, a guy who actually holds an iron over a baby's face to get the information he needs. It’s a disgusting scene that makes my skin crawl not in hatred for the villain but for the filmmakers who made me watch it. We're not supposed to like Jimmy, but the movie would have been a lot more interesting if he existed in more of a gray area like Vic Mackey on The Shield or even Bud White in L.A. Confidential. Instead, like the rest of the characters, he's a two-dimensional baddie. Everyone in Pride and Glory is good or bad with no degrees of gray in between. Jimmy Cagney movies had more subtlety. It's a film that gets down the pride and the glory but that sees the world in black and white and two dimensions. Good movies include a third.
Rating: ONE BONE
Reviewed by Brian Tallerico (MovieRetriever.com Film Critic)
Release Date: October 24th, 2008
Starring: Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Noah Emmerich, Jon Voight, Jennifer Ehle, John Ortiz, and Lake Bell
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Writer: Joe Carnahan & Gavin O’Connor