Tuesday, October 28, 2008


“Tumbleweeds” writer & director Gavin O’Connor and brother Gregory grew up in a cop household, so they know something about police families. “Smoking Aces” scenarist Joe Carnahan penned the screenplay with O’Connor for his new movie “Pride & Glory” (* out of ****) that depicts two generations of Irish-American cops with the New York Police Department in turmoil. This ponderous, dark-blue, R-rated, police procedural potboiler had been collecting dust in New Line Cinema’s vault for over a year. Warner Brothers absorbed New Line Cinema recently and “Pride & Glory” has finally gotten into theaters. Alas, not a single character in this humorless, hackneyed homicide hokum is remotely sympathetic. Heroes don’t exist in “Pride & Glory.” The protagonists are: (1) rotten-to-the core, (2) tormented-to-the-core, or (3) human wrecks in recovery. “Like Michael Mann’s “Heat,” “Pride & Glory” covers the domestic side of police life. Two of the cop wives stand out, but they are confined largely to the periphery. A formulaic cop-versus-cop plot drives the drama in “Pride & Glory” throughout its 129 minute running time. Meanwhile, “Pride & Glory” delivers realism both in the story and the storytelling. Declan Quinn’s vigorous, hand-held photography with a bluish tint lends spontaneity to this saga.

“Pride & Glory” chronicles a brothers-in-blue and brothers-by-blood clash in the New York Police Department. Manhattan Chief of Detectives Francis Tierney Sr. (Oscar-winning Jon Voight of “Coming Home”) hits the sauce too often, but he admires his two police sons Inspector Francis Tierney Jr. (Noah Emmerich of “The Truman Show”) and Detective Ray Tierney (Edward Norton of “Fight Club”) as well as his son-in-law Sergeant Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell of “In Bruges”) of the 31st Precinct. A bungled drug bust lands four NYPD officers in the morgue and catches our quartet of police protagonists by surprise. Sergeant Egan goes ballistic when he bursts onto the crime scene in shocked disbelief. Meanwhile, a solicitous Tierney Sr. implores Ray to serve on an investigative task force. Tierney Sr. thinks that Ray will accommodate him. Scared by a bullet on his left cheek, Ray has been away from his father and brother for three years. Ray exiled himself to the Missing Persons Bureau after an arrest-gone-wrong led to the death of the suspect. The Connor & Carnahan screenplay never provides adequate background about this traumatic event. Ray hates himself because he helped to cover up a crime. Moreover, Ray’s wife Tasha (Carmen Ejogo of “The Avengers”) plans to divorce him because she thought that he didn’t do the right thing. Tierney Jr. finds himself in a similar predicament with Abby (Jennifer Ehle of “Alpha Male”), his shaven-headed, cancer-stricken spouse who wants him to do the right thing.

Connor & Carnahan waste no time identifying the good guy cops and the bad guy cops. “Pride & Glory” charts their inevitable collision and everything about it is complicated. This tedious tale about cops trying to protect their own as well as their families contains the same doom-laden aura as a tragic Eugene O’Neill play.
Tierney Sr. wants Ray back in the streets pronto. Prodigal son that he is, Ray bows to his father’s wishes. “Pride & Glory” features the inevitable spectacle of a police funeral with a sea of blue uniforms. During his investigation, Ray finds a witness who identifies one of the gunmen as a policeman. Ray confides in Tierney Jr., and Tierney Jr. boots the suspected officer Sandy (John Ortiz of “Aliens vs Predator - Requiem”) off the force. Tierney Jr. realizes too late that he gave brother-in-law Sgt Egan too much rope. Egan’s men has gone rogue and have been selling their shields to the highest bidder and trafficking in narcotics. Meantime, Ray lucks up and discovers a cell phone at the crime scene. More smart detective work on his part yields the location of the infamous drug dealer Angel Tezo (Ramon Rodriguez of “Carlito's Way: Rise to Power”) who was behind the drug deal. Unfortunately, when Ray comes through the door with his gun drawn to arrest Angel, he finds brother-in-law Jimmy and his crew have beaten him to the punch and have a surprise for him. Anybody remember the Denzel Washington dirty cops thriller “Training Day” or the Cuba Gooding, Jr. movie “Dirty” about the LAPD Ramparts scandal?

Altogether, “Pride & Glory” is a one-time only cop movie. You’ll see it once and know better than to see it twice. The laudable cast that features Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, and Jon Voight huff and puff their way valiantly through the moth-eaten dialogue and dog-eared cliches. “Pride & Glory” aspires to be the police counterpart of “The Godfather.” The theme of brother versus brother takes on a greater significance since these brothers are brothers-in-blue. Every soul in “Pride & Glory” suffers from some spiritual malady. Tierney Jr. divides his time between the 31st Precinct and his wife dying from cancer. Some of the symbolism is painfully obvious. Since he has been separated from his wife, Ray lives on a boat that leaks. Ray's shattered world resembles his leaky boat. Indeed, this movie lacks a Saturday Matinee hero who can concisely tie up all the loose ends. The O’Connors and Carnahan don’t come up with new or interesting twists. O’Connor stages his gunfights so that you only catch a glimpse of the violence. The splash of red blood that follows lingers longer than the gunplay. “Pride & Glory” has all the staple characters and formulaic situations that constituted dozens of other movies. The lack of a resolution after an angry mob eliminates one character robs this yarn of its moral impact. We watch the protagonists show up for their day in court, but we are never told outcome! “Pretentious & Gory” would have been a better title for “Pride & Glory.” Prepared to be depressed.