DVD Release Date:  January 27, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  October 24, 2008
Rating:  R (for strong violence, pervasive language and brief drug content)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time:  125 min.
Director:  Gavin O’Connor
Actors:  Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Noah Emmerich, Jennifer Ehle

The men in blue have hearts of black in director Gavin O’Connor’s Pride and Glory, a dour, dark film about dirty cops and one man who fights the system—and his family—to break the stranglehold of corruption on the New York Police Department.

Edward Norton stars as Ray Tierney, son of Francis Sr. (Jon Voight) and brother of Francis Jr. (Noah Emmerich), who goes by “Frannie.” Ray is also good friends with brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell). All are part of the NYPD, but Francis Sr. is disappointed in Ray, whose chosen career path in the Missing Persons unit goes against his father’s wishes. Although Francis Sr. tells his family over dinner that his children are “the most important thing in the world,” he clearly takes more pride in some of his offspring than in others.

Those family divisions become even more apparent after Jimmy allows several police officers to perish during a drug bust. Ray investigates the incident , but when the investigation points to his own kin, he turns to his father for advice and guidance. Advised to hush-up the crime and keep the family together, rather than make the crime known and tear the family apart, Ray makes another choice. The implicated cops, seeing that Ray is serious about holding them accountable for their crimes, try one last trick to keep Ray from ending the case.

It’s a familiar plot, and given the right combination of actors, script and director, the result can be riveting. Pride and Glory, which was co-written by the director and by Joe Carnahan, who also wrote and directed the well-received Narc and the not-so-well-received Smokin’ Aces, tries a slow-burn approach to building its story and raising any tension. Too bad that the result is a leaden misfire from its opening frames and never forms into a satisfying narrative. The film takes more than an hour to set up the main conflict between the brothers, and the second half of the film lacks narrative momentum. By the time the pieces start to come together, viewers will have long since lost interest.

Perhaps the one element—and worst element—of this tired story is its inclusion of threatened violence involving an infant. Jimmy, demanding information from a source, orders his fellow officers to call in for help, and to report a severely disfigured child. He then grabs the man’s beautiful infant child and looms over the baby with a hot iron, threatening to press it against the child’s face. It’s a moment that’s supposed to reveal Jimmy’s desperation, but it’s unnecessary and unprecedented. It will lead only to more such depictions in future films. After scenes of torture in the recent Body of Lies involved the crushing of human fingers with a hammer, one wonders how much further filmmakers can go in showing this sort of depraved behavior.

Pride and Glory's one sign of heart and humanity involves Frannie’s home life. His wife is terminally ill, and in his most vulnerable moment, he looks to her to find the strength he needs to try to end the situation that is slowly engulfing his world. It’s a moving scene, but it’s isolated and feels out of place amid the suffocating despair of the rest of the film. Better that O’Connor and Carnahan had spent more time on Frannie’s conflicted conscience and less on Jimmy’s threats and constant profanity.

Readers are strongly advised to let this one pass them by.


Questions? Concerns? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@earthlink.net.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  Lord’s name taken in vain; foul language in English and Spanish; verbal threats of sexual and other violence.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Drinking and smoking; drug use; joke about a “glass of scotch.”
  • Sex/Nudity:  Kissing; a man gets dressed and is shown in a mirror, his lower parts blocked in the mirror’s reflection.
  • Crime:  Police officers steal from businessman and take part in shady operations.
  • Violence/Disturbing Imagery:  Police officers are killed, and kill others, sometimes brutally; shootings and bloody corpses are shown; beatings; a man threatens to put a hot iron on an infant’s face; a suicide; fist fight.