There have been so many movies about Irish families comprised of NYC cops that they should merit their own genre by now. What's most baffling is that all these pictures tend to look and feel identical. One brother is always corrupt and the other is always honest. There's always a stern patriarch, urging the honest brother to "protect" the other because - say it with me - "cops don't rat each other out." The brothers will eventually have a fistfight in an Irish pub. Pride and Glory has these and all the other clichés you'd expect. The only one it's missing is the scene where the cop family sits piously in a Catholic church, somberly celebrating mass. That'll probably turn up in the deleted scenes on the DVD.
In this instance, Edward Norton plays Ray Tierney, the "honest" cop who intentionally took a low-key assignment in the Missing Persons department after being talked into covering up an act of police corruption. His father, Francis Tierney, Sr. (Jon Voight), demands that he return to active duty by joining a task force devoted to investigating the fatal ambush of four cops, all of whom were under the supervision of Ray's brother-in-law Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell). Jimmy, while not technically a blood relative is, of course, the "corrupt" brother. This is not a spoiler: Jimmy and a few of his men have started a rogue unit that's been involved in a citywide drug dealing operation. Most disturbing is the fact that this very involvement may have led to Jimmy's own men being gunned down. He has hidden this very well from his family, but nevertheless shares their desire to bring down the cop killer.
One of the few original elements Pride and Glory injects into this age-old formula comes in the form of Francis, Jr. (Noah Emmerich), who is both Ray's brother and Jimmy's commanding officer. He doesn't know exactly what's been going on with Jimmy's extracurricular activities but, as he says at one point, he "knows enough." Given that his wife (Jennifer Ehle) is dying of cancer, Francis, Jr. increasingly finds that he has little desire to play games. However, going against Jimmy would threaten family unity.
I'm certain that you realize this is not his story anyway. It's Ray's. He starts tracking down the key suspect, a dealer named Tezo, and eventually stumbles upon information that indicts his brother-in-law. Ray must then decide whether to stifle it under the "cops don't rat" rule or whether to spill the beans and let the chips fall where they may. Any guesses what his father wants him to do?
That noise you hear is the soundtrack of We Own the Night, which is playing next door in the multiplex of your memory. Yes, there are undeniable similarities between the two pictures. I liked We Own the Night more, although it was by no means original either. At the very least, it assembled the pieces in a way that felt fresh, and threw in one of the most astounding car chases ever filmed in the bargain.
Pride and Glory, on the other hand, is solidly constructed but extremely predictable. If you've ever seen one (or more) of these "Irish cop family" movies, you will see all the little plot developments coming well in advance of their actual arrival. From what I've already told you - and I've left some things out - you could probably outline the entire plot based solely on this review. That's right: you don't even necessarily need to see the film to know the story. It's that color-by numbers.
And it's really a shame because screenwriter Joe Carnahan and co-writer/director Gavin O'Connor fail to follow up on a few things that do seem like they are going to be original. For example, there is a scene where Ray and Jimmy both catch up with Tezo at the same time. I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen in that moment, and I was right. What I didn't expect was the manner in which it happened. For a brief moment, it seemed as though Pride and Glory was going to throw a monkey wrench into the old formula and take it in a different, even darker direction. But as soon as that moment passed, the plot reverted back to the same-old same-old, without following up on the intriguing possibilities of the characters' actions. The potential was there for the story to go in a completely new direction, yet it adhered firmly to the standard.
In fairness, the performances are quite good. Norton and Farrell turn in strong work, and Jon Voight thankfully avoids his recent tendency to overact in every picture he appears in. They are all fine, as is Noah Emmerich as the cop living in the gray zone. Gavin O'Connor also manages to give the movie a fast pace and, with cinematographer Declan Quinn, an appropriately gritty visual style. On a technical and performance level, Pride and Glory is satisfactory viewing that holds your attention. But - and this is a big but - I don't want satisfactory; I want ambition. What was the point of making this movie if it wasn't going to bring anything new to the table? We've been told this story dozens of times before. Why hear it again? Pride and Glory is a slacker of a movie, never exerting itself when it could just go through the motions instead.
( 1/2 out of four)
Pride and Glory is available on DVD and Blu-Ray on January 27. The DVD has both fullscreen and widescreen on the same disc, while the Blu-Ray is widescreen only.
While my feelings on the film itself are mixed, I have to say that Pride and Glory is definitely worth a look on DVD, especially when you factor in the primary bonus feature. "Source of Pride" is a 67-minute documentary on the making of the film, and it is one of the best making-of features I have ever come across on a DVD. Going far beyond the self-promotional stuff you typically find in the supplemental section, "Source of Pride" takes you deep inside the production. You see the actors riding along with real NYPD cops (and getting into a sticky situation in the process). You see the open casting sessions where authentic non-actors were brought in to audition for roles as criminals. You also see special effects guys shooting furniture to prepare a bullet-ridden set.
That stuff is cool, but what makes the documentary so revealing is its honest account of behind-the-scenes troubles. Director Gavin O'Connor still had 2/3 of the roles uncast a mere two weeks before shooting was to begin, and he tinkered with the unfinished script throughout production. This caused problems when star Edward Norton (notorious for liking to re-write the scripts of his films) turned in his own draft of a scene and tried to shoot it. O'Connor tells the documentary crew that if the actor refuses to recite the official dialogue, he will yell "cut" every time. Later, on the night before the last day of filming, O'Connor confesses that he has just figured out what the previously-undetermined ending should be. Talk about last minute!
Another sequence shows Norton and O'Connor engaging in some creative debate about how to stage a scene on a boat. While both argue intensely, it's clear they each have the best interests of the scene in mind. This process - again, a reported Norton regularity - doesn't seem to sit too well with co-star Jon Voight. During the filming of a tense arguement between their characters, the veteran actor becomes visibly annoyed with his younger co-star's apparent need to pick the scene apart rather than to just shoot it. One thing I did not know - but which is documented well here - is that Nick Nolte was originally slated to play Voight's role. He dropped out four days into shooting because he needed surgery. The director is shown purusing a list of potential replacements, before finally settling on Voight.
"Source of Pride" is not about gossip or scandal, and I do not mean to imply that it is. Instead, it shows - with great honesty - what goes into the making of a movie: all the technicalities, the frustrations, the script troubles, the conflicting styles of the actors, etc. It also goes a long way toward explaining some of the reasons why Pride and Glory isn't better than it is. There is no doubt that everyone (including and especially Edward Norton) was trying to make the picture into something very special, but they were battling some difficult odds on the way there.
Thinking back on it, I hesitate to call "Source of Pride" a bonus feature. "Companion piece" is the more appropriate term. Watch the film itself, then check out the documentary. In doing so, you will gain a greater understanding of how the moviemaking process works - and how it sometimes ends up diluting the good intentions of its creative team.
In addition to this outstanding documentary, Pride and Glory also comes with a digital copy of the movie.
Pride and Glory is rated R for strong violence, pervasive language and brief drug content. The running time is 2 hours and 5 minutes.
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