STARRING Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Noah Emmerich.
WRITTEN BY Joe Carnahan & Gavin O'Connor
DIRECTED BY Gavin O'Connor
2008, 130 mins.
** (out of ****)
Warning! I give out massively original, heart-blow-upy awesome spoilers, so read at your own discretion!
Honestly, there’s no reason to see this flick – it’s easily skip-able. Everything present in Pride and Glory has been done before; it’s not a matter of whether the other movies executed the premise better or worse, it’s just that there’s nothing interesting enough to warrant a viewing of something you’ve seen plenty of times before. Main plot could be summed up by a supremely better, straight-forward title: Good Cop/Bad Cops; think TV’s The Shield but less better. The most recent version of this formula that comes to mind is the Joaquin Phoenix/Mark Wahlberg We Own the Night (2006), which pitted police man Wahlberg and his father against his brother, Mr. Phoenix, who at the end of the movie, gets into the family business. These flicks aren’t just about good cops and not-so-good cops, but about what it means to wear the badge, right and wrong, and furthermore, family; this is Pride and Glory in a nutshell. For what it is, Pride is a well made movie, but its main fault is that there is absolutely no tension in any of the scenes, nor did I find myself caring for a single character. The only reason I don’t feel totally robbed for buying my ticket (even though I semi-enjoyed it) is the presence of Edward Norton, who helped sell this summer’s action blockbuster The Incredible Hulk enormously.
An incident where a failed drug bust resulted in the death of four officers rocks the police department. Commanding officer Francis Egan (Noah Emmerich) enlists the help of his brother, Ray (Edward Norton), who has become a loner after some unspecified catastrophe brought down his life, to investigate the murders. Initially reluctant, Ray accepts, and as he digs, he finds more and more evidence that implicates members of the task force, including his brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell). Thus, Ray’s undecided on his next course of action: exploit the crimes of these officers, or be silent?
The opening paragraph pretty much sums up what I think about the flick, but I’ll elaborate a bit. My general experience was this: my attention gravitated throughout until the film’s final fifteen minutes, which was either very stupid or very smart, I’m not totally sure yet. As I’m sure you’ve figured out the complex plot, I’ll reveal the ending, and for those who don’t want to know the ending, now would be the time to not be reading: two of the dirty cops get in some serious trouble in a corner building convenience store, and this trouble gets the attention of pretty much everyone on the street, be it gang members, gang impersonators, or just very not-so-happy people outraged at what’s happening. Once this situation is resolved, the gangsta portion of the crowd their way to where Norton and in-custody Farrell are, and they demand a little justice with weapons of harmful destruction. Personally, I enjoyed this ending; it was quite far-fetched, but it deviated from the norm.
As I mentioned, Edward Norton is the saving grace of the movie, which sort of surprised me. When Colin Farrell’s career was rising about three or four years ago, his name alone gave me confidence that the movie I was about to see would be worthwhile, if just for his performance alone. I’m still not sure of what I thought of Farrell, but he didn’t have the same presence as other flicks he’s done in the past (hell, I was more invested in Bullseye from Daredevil, 2003). Norton has become an actor where I’ll see a flick of his just because of his name (I even suffered through The Illusionist, 2006), and he completely helped this movie from damnation. Times like these that actors are helpful in saving a poorly written script.
Norton plays his character exactly how he’s written: conflicted and unsure of himself; Farrell is erratic and trying to maintain control over an increasingly escalating situation. Noah Emmerich attempts to maintain order at the police station and find out what truly happened that resulted in the death of four cops. And Jon Voight plays the father, ex-chief or captain or whatever of the department, and he honestly sold a more convincingly performance in Transformers (2007).
The script is the main problem. Redundant dialogue, lack of urgency, and the biggest offender that I initially was alright with: the wife of Noah’s character who is dying of cancer. When this plot point was first introduced onscreen, I was thinking, ‘Hm. Nifty. Never been done before, so I’m interested in where this goes.’ Ultimately, it goes nowhere, and it adds nothing but being an obvious attempt tom invoke sympathy for Francis. Something I am thankful for is the lack of slang used, a la Harsh Times (2004), which could potentially have hurt the movie even more.
Keep in mind, I didn’t approach the movie with a negative viewpoint. On the contrary, I was pumped to see it; I’m a sucker for those good cop/bad cop type of flicks, but this just didn’t cut it. I guess the underlying problem is that I just didn’t care what happened to anyone, and that’s sort of something dramas kinda need – the caring of the cast. For a good example of this formula put to good use, I recommend picking up the first six seasons of FX’s The Shield and catch-up on the last ten episodes of season seven; they are truly some of the finest writing and performances television has ever produced. But hell, still enjoyable then Max Payne.