I caught the Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, & Jon Voight starring Pride and Glory Friday night.
Before I go any further, that title, Pride and Glory? Really?! ...that title fucken sucks... It's embarrassingly generic and fundamentally forgettable. A year from now, hell, 3 months from now, if you asked someone about Pride and Glory, the conversation might go something like this:
You: Hey, so I caught the Pride and Glory on the cable the other night...
Them: Pride and Glory, that's the football one right?
You: No, no, it has nothing to do with football.
Them: Are you sure...?
You: Yes, I'm sure it's not a football movie. Like I said, it has nothing to do with football... ... ...okay, well, that's not entirely true...the opening scene is Colin Farrell playing football for 10 minutes.
Them: See! I told you!!
You: You didn't tell me shit! I watched the fucken thing last week, it's not a football movie!
Them: Uh huh, whatever.
You: Have you seen it?
Them: I don't need to see it to know it's a football movie. It's called motherfucken Pride and Glory!
[gunshots]: Pop...Pop...Pop Pop...(you just put 2 bullets in your friend's head and then 2 more in his chest)
You: Is it a football movie now Motherfucker?! Larry? Larry?? SWEETIE! IT HAPPENED AGAIN!!
Sweetie: HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU NOT TO WATCH THAT MOVIE ANYMORE?!?! AND YOU BETTER HAVE KEPT IT OFF MY RUG, IT REALLY TIES THE ROOM TOGETHER!
Much like the title, the story of Pride and Glory is not at all original. A good cop trying to uncover police corruption by going after bad cops. It's an immensely derivative idea that's been done to death, most recently in Street Kings starring Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker, and more masterfully in Sidney Lumet's Serpico with Al Pacino in the title role, and in the undisputed champion of this niche genre, Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential with Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce.
Look, we get it, there are corrupt cops out there. I especially get it, I live in L.A. - home of the Rodney King beating, but if you can't bring something new to the table, then don't bother taking it outta the grocery bag.
The story of Pride and Glory is essentially this: Ed Norton (I love the fact that he shares a name with Art Carney's Character from the original Honeymooners) plays Ray Tierney, a gun-shy cop who's been working missing persons cases for the past two years since taking a slug to the face (a trait shared with Pacino's Serpico). His brother Franny (Francis), played by the underrated Noah Emmerich, is the Commander of a squad that just saw 4 of it's officers killed in the process of a botched raid. Jon Voight, plays their father, who is some sort of higher up in the department. I'm not purposely being vague, it's just that it was never explained. He might even possibly be retired, though I don't think he is.
This is all supposed to be set in Detroit, but save for a few mentions of the Detroit PD, I thought I was watching a movie set in New York. There was nothing in this movie, location-wise, to distinguish it from an episode of Law and Order. I mean, would it have killed them to throw a Red Wings jersey on an extra or two?
To help his brother out and get his dad off his back about "getting back on the streets and out from behind a desk," Ray joins the special task force setup to find the shooter. All it took to get him on the task force was a favor called in from his dad.
It is through his investigation that he discovers the corruption that lead to the 4 officers being killed. One of the transgressors is none other than Jimmy Egan, Colin Farrell's character, who just so happens to be married to Ray and Franny's sister. Seems highly coincidental and just a little convenient? Yeah well, the convenience doesn't end there. The movie is filled with situations and scenario's that just don't feel real. One of the final scenes has Ray walking a cuffed Jimmy a few blocks back to Franny's squad car where they encounter a mob lead by a man Jimmy previously beat and tortured for information. So it's a given that they kill Jimmy, but what do they do with Ray, the witness and Cop? Why, they let him go course. I mean they were wearing masks...oh wait, no they weren't. And why didn't Franny suspect that there was corruption in his ranks? Hmm, let's sack him with something to make his ignorance forgivable. I'VE GOT IT!! Let's give his wife terminal cancer!
There are also several loose ends that aren't tied up, but not in a French New Wave intentionally ambiguous manner. They just run out of movie and never come back to them.
As far as this movie's technical merits go, given co-writer Joe Carnahan's Narc pedigree, while the situations don't feel real, the look of this movie feels very real, very "man on the street," thanks in large part to it's heavy reliance on hand-held photography. Additionally, too many of the scenes were too dark, visually, for my liking. A fact which can most certainly be directly linked back to the abundance of hand-held shots. I'm no cinematographer, but it wouldn't have hurt if they threw a few more fill lights into the mix. These two quirks alone, might make this movie difficult to watch for some, much like Cloverfield did.
All that said, Pride and Glory isn't wholly without merit. The acting by the principals it top notch. Ed Norton is good in just about everything he's in. But for me, the two actors that really shine are Jon Voight and Noah Emmerich, with Colin Farrell being the weak link in the acting chain.
The standout scene for Voight is at the dinner table. As this scene began, I cringed in horror at what I believed was the makings of an all too personally familiar scenario. One of grievances being aired, one chock full of proclamation's of children's potential left unfulfilled and talent's squandered. I in turn was left fully content with the obvious work of fiction where Voight, surrounded by his family after having had a few nips, goes around the table praising each of his three kid's individual talents. Ray, Ray is the Thinker. Franny is the Leader. And Megan (played by Lake Bell) is the Heart, the compassionate one. Courage, Brain, and Heart, the Wizard of Oz parallels are not lost on me.
Noah Emmerich doesn't really have a single standout scene like Voight does, he's pretty much good throughout. He's an underrated character actor who consistently delivers and his performance here is no different.
Norton's character lives on a boat in the movie. The boat begins to take on water and Norton does his best to fix the leak. It's a metaphor that can be applied to this movie, it's a sinking ship relying on it's considerable acting talent to save it. I just wish the ship they were saving was worthy of their efforts.