Gavin O’Connor’s Irish-Catholic cop drama tells a similar story to James Gray’s superior We Own the Night, but does it in the most lugubrious way possible. In the Joaquin Phoenix role of the dirty brother(-in-law), we have this time Colin Farrell; in the role of the relatively good brother, we have Edward Norton. In the Robert Duvall role of the police chief dad, we have Jon Voight. And because this is a New Line movie (executive produced by Toby Emmerich), Noah Emmerich plays the third brother. It's an obvious template for Irish-American family drama: a game of good cop, bad cop in the NYPD as the family figures out how far they’ll go to cover up each other’s sins. Though both the Gray film and the O'Connor film achieve a texture of New York crime and punishment, We Own the Night created drama worth investing in. Pride and Glory leaves its actors hanging with clichés they can't bring convincingly to life.
The action opens at an NYPD vs. Detroit football game, establishing a worthy interest in the details of cop culture. The game is interrupted by a call--four officers down--leading the Tierney clan's Francis Jr. (Emmerich) to the scene of a grisly crime. It's personal for the NYPD, but even more personal for the Tierneys, as it turns out Francis' brother-in-law Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell) is involved, as he is in drug interests, robbery, and murder for hire. Though a husband and father, Jimmy is willing to threaten someone's baby with a hot iron to save his skin; he just won't accept the obvious fact that his days are numbered.
Alcoholic Francis Sr. (Voight in top form) ropes in his other son Ray (Norton, typically focused) to head up the task force investigating the shooting. A probe into officers under his charge left Ray with a mark of Cain (a scar on his left cheek) and a sullied reputation. Ever since, he's been hiding out in Missing Persons, but when his father won't take no for an answer, Ray reluctantly accepts the cop-killing case and the chance at redemption it represents. Of course, it leads to a test of Ray's professional ethics as he learns the truth while everyone around him is busy erecting the blue wall of silence, which Francis Sr. euphemistically calls "loyalty."
Much of the acting is as pleasingly underplayed as the script allows, but there’s a reason this movie sat on the shelf for almost two years. It’s relentlessly dour, filled with unsympathetic characters, and made out of cardboard melodrama. It's the last of those sins that is unforgivable. The many yelling matches are predictable ("Let me tell you something: what we've done does not get forgiven!") and the quieter moments equally clichéd ("When we were kids, all we ever talked about was being cops. How the fuck did we end up at this?"). Francis Jr. has a cancer-ridden wife (Jennifer Ehle's Abby) that, at least in the final cut, is no more than a motivational device--and a waste of Ehle's considerable talent.
The most blatant line of self-conscious dialogue in a film full of it comes at the climax, from Jimmy: "So how do you think this ends?" First, with a fistfight between brothers in a bar called "Irish Eyes" (with Irish fiddling on the jukebox) and then with an incident that wouldn't look out of place in an opera. Ironically, Pride and Glory excels in many of the little details of its milieu: the procedure, parlance, and personalities of the NYPD. O'Connor can be credited for his commitment to realism (enough to make New Line append a lengthy disclaimer), but he should have sunk more energy into the script before the cameras rolled.
Pride and Glory looks as it should on Blu-ray. Originally intended to be shot on 16mm, the film was designed to have a rough feel: this transfer of the 35mm source handsomely recaptures the film's gritty, '70s-style visual scheme. The muted colors and natural grain contribute to an accurate and film-like image. The audio options include both Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks that maximize the source material with ambient effects taking you to the streets.
There's only one bonus feature here, but for my money, it's as much (if not more) of a selling point than the movie itself. Stephen Earnhart's superior, feature-length making-of doc Source of Pride: A Documentary About the Making of Pride and Glory (1:07:07, SD) shows us warts and all in the troubled and contentious process of getting the film in the can. Beginning seven weeks before production when the bloom is still on the rose (the exhilaration of research and character development in intensive rehearsals). By allowing the script to stay in flux (largely due to the hands-on involvement of star Edward Norton), O'Connor sends the crew, studio and himself into states of panic and puts the production permanently behind schedule. Compromises will have to be made, though ultimately a weary O'Connor is able to look at the film as a source of pride. Among the many characters in the documentary are director Gavin O'Connor, producer Greg O'Connor, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Frank Grillo, Lake Bell, Edward Norton, Noah Emmerich, executive producer Macrus Viscidi, hip-hop writer-producer "Cuba Libre," casting director Randi Hiller, New Line senior V.P. of development Cale Boyter, Flaco Navaja, Manny Perez, Ramone Rodriguez, second assistant director Colin MacLellan, co-producer Josh Fagin, Rick Gonzalez, script supervisor Christine Gee, DP Declan Quinn, animal trainer Steve McAuliff, production designer Dan Leigh, and Jennifer Ehle.
Fans of the actors (and Norton in particular) will want to have not only Pride and Glory on the shelf, but the documentary that accompanies it, either in the preferable Blu-ray edition or the mirrored 2-Disc DVD set.
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer