I’d like Gavin O’ Connor, director and co-writer of Pride and Glory, Joe Carnahan, the film’s other co-writer, and Edward Norton, the film’s star and notoriously controlling presence, to line themselves up against a wall. Whichever one of them is responsible for the ridiculous punch-it-out climax to Pride and Glory I’d like them to step forward, punch themselves in the face and then take their own life. Seriously.
All involved think they’re making an oh-so-serious, modern-day take on Serpico. It’s clear from the outset. So how the hell can we take them seriously with a finale like that?
Pride and Glory has a, shall we say, “interesting” aroma attached to it. First put together in September 2001 with Mark Wahlberg and Hugh Jackman attached to star, the project fell apart in fear of no one being interested in watching a “dirty NYPD” movie in the wake of 9-11. It then came together years later with Edward Norton and Colin Farrell and was ready to be released in 2006. When New Line crumbled and started throwing out their stock before the Warner Bros take-over, this was one they decided to shelve instead. And there it sat until (for the UK) it was dumped out for a quick release earlier this year. You can’t help but read into all this and come away with little confidence, can you?
Now, everyone is well aware I’m no fan of Colin Farrell. Does nobody else but me feel a little conned by Colin Farrell’s schtick? He’s meant to be this good-looking, charming, charismatic, new “screen presence”? So why the hell is nobody going to see his movies? And, with that in mind, why the hell does he keep getting work? I can’t work it out. If I was a child-minder but every child I minded ended up dead, I would assume that at some point they’re going to stop giving me children to care for! So when every movie that Colin Farrell takes a lead or a co-lead role in flops or under-performs, you’ve got to wonder how he keeps getting work? Does he give ‘good head’ to studio executives or something? Come, the fuck, on here people! Look outside the box: Cassandra’s Dream, Miami Vice, Ask the Dust, The New World, Alexander, A Home at the End of the World, S.W.A.T., The Recruit, Phone Booth, Hart’s War and American Outlaws. That guy is in more need of a hit then a Kings Cross junkie!
In Bruges gave me hope. Within that review, I suggested that that movie was EXACTLY the type he should be making and to stick with the cheeky-cheery-Irish-charm and stop with the wannabe-smouldering-fake-accented-leading-man bollocks in mainstream movies. The only defence Farrell has is that Pride and Glory sat on the shelf so was actually done before he made In Bruges. However, something tells me we’re going to be seeing more “mainstream” Farrell and less of the In Bruges Farrell. Which is a crying shame, because he was great in that latter movie but flat out absolutely awful in Pride and Glory.
The film follows a family of police officers – a patriarch, two sons, and a son-in-law – dealing with corruption in a precinct in Washington Heights. Four officers die in an ambush at a drug dealer’s apartment. It’s brother Francis’s (Noah Emmerich) precinct, so when the investigation led by brother Ray (Edward Norton) finds hints of police corruption, there’s pressure to close ranks and save Frankie’s career. Dad (Jon Voight), a police brass, promises Ray that he and Frankie can clean things up, and Ray should focus on catching the drug dealer who killed the cops. Meanwhile, brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell), a hothead and an enforcer, is visited at home by a lowlife involved in the cop-killings, suggesting he is involved a little deeper then many originally thought.
Norton, Emmerich and Voight act earnestly within Pride and Glory, and all involved spit out the allegedly realistic “street lingo” like machine gun fire, thinking that it adds to the ‘heightened-realism’ of the piece. It doesn’t. Norton is a terrific actor but there’s something a little “off” with him bumbling around as an intimidating cop with all the ‘street-talk’ and the ‘bad-ass attitude’. I just didn’t buy it.
On top of this, it thinks it has this really weighty, complex plot going down but it is actually troubled by two very important factors — 1. It drops the ball very early on by revealing Jimmy’s position and therefore dilutes the film of any real tension or drama and 2. Films as weighty as the immense Prince of the City and the sublime Serpico (both Sidney Lumet movies, ironically enough), not to mention the masterful LA Confidential, have all tackled this very subject and tackled it flawlessly. Pride and Glory has absolutely nothing new to say or do with the topic and can therefore only exist as a dispensible, light-weight potboiler.
And that is where the film succeeds. Build yourself a defence against yet another despicable Colin Farrell performance, forget about the film trying to be anything more than what it is, and try and tune out away from the flat-out awful climactic resolution and you’re left with a film that is directed well and performed with gusto by two actors that will surprise you: the normally bland Noah Emmerich and the isn’t-he-in-everything-and-shit-in-everything-these-days Jon Voight.
Gavin O’ Connor, the man behind the enormously under-rated, near-perfect little sports movie Miracle for Disney, does a solid job behind the camera and does a better job with the directing then he does with the co-writing. However, watching Pride and Glory, you find yourself sat there thinking that you could really do with seeing a modern take on police corruption, done superbly well, cast to absolute perfection with a surprisingly starry cast and with something very interesting to say about the subject matter at hand. And then you go and grab your copy of CopLand.
Pride and Glory though, thinks it is way more than it actually is. In its own mind it thinks that it deserves to stand alongside the Lumet classics or Curtis Hanson’s mid-90s masterpiece. It’s actually more in keeping with A Man Apart or the Paul Walker movie, Running Scared. Only ever so slightly better. Horrendously flawed, overly serious and nothing more than a piece of pure, escapist potboiler entertainment: