Pride and Glory: Cops caught up in clichés
There's a great deal of energy in Gavin O'Connor's Pride and Glory, a cop drama that delves into corruption in the New York police department and deception within the families that serve in it. Handheld cameras are used to put us right in the middle of its grisly action, and the film's stars, Edward Norton and Colin Farrell, rend the screen with such ferocity that you can't help but be swept away by the story, at least initially. However, midway through, the film starts to wane and it becomes apparent that all O'Connor has to offer is a cinematic shell game, distracting us with bluff and bluster, trying to sell us a collection of clichés rather than an intimate, behind-the-scenes take on police work and its effect on the families of its officers.
Ray Tierney (Norton) has, through no fault of his own, become the black sheep of his Irish cop family. A young man with great promise, his career has been derailed by a shady incident in his past in which he had to perjure himself in order to protect some fellow officers. While his father, Francis Tierney Sr. (Jon Voight) and brother, Francis Jr. (Noah Emmerich), veteran cops both, admire his actions, Ray's having a hard time coming to terms with it all, quietly hiding behind his desk job in shame. However, a violent killing, in which four cops are brutally slain, prompts Francis Sr. to force Ray into heading the unit that will investigate it. Bullied into doing so, he eventually discovers that the slain officers may have been on the take and were set up. Even worse, it appears as though Jimmy Egan (Farrell), Ray's brother-in-law, may be the ringleader of the corrupt unit these cops worked in.
As the investigation deepens, the script by O'Connor and Joe Carnahan stretches the boundaries of logic until they break, giving us a climax that's so dependent on convenient circumstances that it cannot be believed. Equally frustrating is the fact that the story is far too complicated for its own good and would have benefited from a straightforward storyline. While there's a nice twist where Ray finds himself unexpectedly responsible for a brutal murder, cutting some scenes focused on the murder suspect who's on the lam would have streamlined the film, making it more compelling.
Still, that would not help the fact that, despite its rough-edged aesthetic, Glory is really nothing more than a helping of overheated leftovers. The question of family loyalty in conflict with social responsibility is hardly new, and while the cast does its level best to inject life into the material, in the end it's a losing battle. Norton knows when to tone things down effectively when his cast-mates have it turned up to eleven and his grounded turn comes off as effective and sincere. Voight also has some nice moments, eschewing his usual scene-chewing methods, especially during a Christmas meal where he's a bit tipsy and he movingly speaks of the pride he feels for his kids. More genuine moments like this would have helped give O'Connor the emotional impact he was striving for. And while he attempts to achieve a degree of realism with his handheld camera shots, all this technique does is muddle the action at crucial moments, particularly at the movie's end when things should be at their most clear.
Glory could not be more different from O'Connor's previous feature, the 1980 U.S. Hockey team drama "Miracle," in style and tone and perhaps the filmmaker was intent on separating himself from that sort of "touchy-feely" product as much as possible. If so, that strategy backfires here as the clichéd characters and situations on display are far from engaging and the film itself a bloated, by-the-numbers exercise, which is something of a crime with all of the talent on hand.