A solid enough entry into the ever increasing canon of cop movies, Pride and Glory is a very well acted and directed picture, yet owes its existence to much better films of its ilk released before it.
Pride and Glory places its spotlight on the Tierney family, of which several of its members are a part of the New York Police Department. When four officers are killed during a drug raid gone bad, former shining star turned desk jockey Ray (Edward Norton), is ordered by his Captain and Father (Jon Voight) to lead a task force into finding the people responsible. During his investigation, he finds rampant corruption within his ranks, led by his brother in law Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), who -along with several other officers- charades as a hitman and courier for a reputable drug dealer (Rick Gonzalez).
The majority of Pride and Glory plays itself out as a gripping police procedural, thanks to the steadfast performances of its cast, and Gavin O’Conner’s ultra-realistic approach to the cop film sub-genre.
The grit and cold that East coast cop films inhabit –and which its sunny Western contemporaries lack – is felt in every frame of this movie. For added intensity, O’Conner uses extreme close ups with the customary shake to his camera. And to further enhance the films realistic tone, subtitles are discarded when dialogue is shared with Spanish speaking witnesses, and/or crims.
The violence is also depicted in an authentic slant, with one act of brutality on Farrell’s part sure to make viewers wince.
Yet Pride and Glory works best when it delves behind the scenes, and into the personnel lives of these men and their families. Of particular mention is Ray’s older brother Francis, played extremely well by character actor extraordinaire Noah Emmerich, whose wife Abby (a heartbreaking Jennifer Ehle) is dying from cancer.
A scene during Christmas dinner features the always dependable Jon Voight delivering an impassioned, albeit drunken speech about his love for his family, and it is a key moment which establishes the fact that above all else, Pride and Glory is a tragic family drama.
But this not only applies to the biological definition of the word family, but also to the fraternal, the brotherhood which is the police department. Pride and Glory candidly represents the lives of men and women who place their lives on the line while protecting civilians and serving the law. It also shows how these men and women are receptive to the lure of easy money and the abuse of power.
Director Gavin O’Conner, and his brother, producer Greg O’Conner, were sons of a New York City cop, and after watching this movie, it is of no wonder why they did not follow their father’s footsteps. Not to say that Hollywood is the bastion of saintliness, but still....
Both men effectively use their inside perspective on what it is like to live in a police family, and with the help of Joe Carnahan – who was responsible for the vastly superior and similar in tone Narc – a near classic could have been achieved.
But too many segway’s into cliché territory, and a mind numbing final act - which undercuts the films plausible vibe – stops Pride and Glory from becoming the crime classic it inspired to be.