Status: No longer in theaters (opened 10/24/08)
Directed By: Gavin O’Connor
Written By: Joe Carnahan & Gavin O’Connor
Cinematographer: Declan Quinn
Starring: Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, Noah Emmerich, Jon Voight
I’m having trouble thinking of a good example, but I could swear I’ve seen plenty of movies like this before: an Irish family of cops in a big city (in Pride and Glory‘s case, New York), struggling with coming to terms with the generational divide that effects their differing senses of duty and morality. The patriarch (Jon Voight) is an old school, been-around-and-seen-it-all type, who wants his sons to follow in his footsteps as NYC cops who look out for their own. The elder brother (Noah Emmerich) is equal parts career man and family man, who protects his brothers, his daughters, and the officers who work for him above all else. His brother (Ed Norton) is a strictly by-the-books cop, to the point of naivete, but he’s been through some shit, man—he even has a really bad-ass scar to prove it, not to mention an estranged wife (Carmen Ejogo) who can’t be with him anymore because the aforementioned shit he went through changed him, man.
Then there’s the brother-in-law (Colin Farrell), the black sheep of the family who does things his own way, man. He plays so far outside of the rules that he makes the criminals he confronts look like innocent victims. Director and co-writer Gavin O’Connor is obviously going for shock value with some of these scenes, and they’re so over-the-top that they’d be comical if they weren’t so disturbing—I can’t imagine there’s a way to portray threatened baby torture tastefully, for instance. Farrell’s character is the gang leader of sorts to a group of dirty cops within the department, and as the film progresses their exploits move from deplorable abuses of power to just downright stupid machismo.
The main setup of the movie is that there is corruption within the NYPD, and Ed Norton’s character is tasked with stomping it out. He gets pushback from Noah Emmerich, who plays the higher-ranking officer whose knee-jerk reaction is to defend his men before he learns the facts. Farrell’s dirty cop uses this to his advantage, and it’s no surprise when the obvious conflict of interests is what O’Connor relies upon to drive his plot. I don’t think many people would go into this movie expecting anything all that original, but unfortunately even given that it still manages to disappoint with such a generic premise.
There are pretty solid performances throughout, though, at least enough to keep things somewhat entertaining; I’ll admit that I thought Edward Norton and Colin Farrell would themselves serve as sufficient ingredients to automatically give this film a leg up from the get-go, but not unlike Righteous Kill, the screenplay here manages to write itself out of this advantage. The film’s third act has three pivotal scenes, all of which are attempts at ratcheting up the drama as the storyline races to its conclusion, but which play out, in turn, as boring (Voight half-assing his way through a cliched speech), hilariously bad (Norton and Farrell randomly engaging in a fistfight in a bar out of nowhere), and infuriatingly stupid: The big surprise curveball of a climax that requires such an onerous setup that we don’t even care when it comes, except to feel insulted that we’re expected to buy it.