Movie Review: Pride and Glory (2008)

Ed Norton in Pride and Glory
Photo: New Line Cinema

Seriously, a fist fight in a bar? That’s the dramatic climax you have for me? Pride and Glory is a film that was, at the very least, acceptable for 105 minutes of its 125 minute running time, but it offers up one of the most absurd climaxes imaginable as it seems the screenwriters just ran out of ideas and said, “Forget it, let’s just solve it all right here and right now.” That they do as this flick co-written and directed by Gavin O’Connor with the writing help of Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces and Narc) is certainly able to step out of the nasty shadow looming from last year’s dreadful corrupt cop drama We Own the Night, but following the final 20 minutes it may actually end up lower on the pile.

Pride and Glory is a procedural story and it never keeps the audience out of the loop. The film opens with the death of four police officers and there is never a doubt that Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell) and his team of dirty cops had something to do with it. They probably didn’t pull the trigger themselves, but you don’t put it past the idea they may have hired a gun to do the job. Dirty cops, drug money, murder, everything is at the center of the story and to top it all off a family of cops get twisted and tied into the mess.

Turns out Jimmy is married to Megan (Lake Bell) who is the sister of Francis and Ray Tierney (Noah Emmerich and Ed Norton), both are cops and their father Francis Sr. (Jon Voight) is Chief of Manhattan Detectives. So, Francis Sr. is seeing over the lot of them, Jimmy serves under Francis Jr. and Ray is now being asked by Francis Sr. to join the task force to get to the bottom of what happened as a favor to him and his brother-in-law Jimmy. Follow? Based on that alone you are either forever confused or already realize Ray is going to find out Jimmy had something to do with it and it is going to come down to a moral battle of siding with the family or with the law. I will leave the rest for you to figure out, but I will say for the most part the film does a good job of slowly building to a climax. It could have been a faster build with a little more excitement in between, which would have meant they could have gone for a slightly more subdued climax, but instead this film hinges on the finale and it is a disaster.

I am beginning to think dirty cop dramas just won’t work on their own. There has to be something more to them as we have seen recently. Films such as The Departed and L.A. Confidential dealt with dirty cops but there was more to each story. American Gangster, while not a perfect film, has its share of dirty cops, but they don’t overwhelm the story and in time they get their comeuppance. The tendency to link family and dirty cops is a bad trap to fall into as it instantly telegraphs your every move and your ultimate outcome.

Pride and Glory certainly has an edge to it, and it is going for gritty dark blue drama and it succeeds in a slow procedural kind of way. Unfortunately the filmmakers didn’t have a way to dig themselves out of the hole the film put them in and I will tell you right now, a fist fight in an emptied bar is NEVER the answer.