Rating: 2.5 stars
Have we simply run out of good cop stories to tell? Since Serpico, it seems that every other cop movie is some iteration of the same theme—corrupt cops, compromised values, and torn loyalties. Sometimes, we throw in gangsters (The Departed; American Gangster). Sometimes we give it a twisted buddy angle (Training Day; Blue Steel). And sometimes, we show how all this corruption affects a cop family (We Own the Night; The Big Easy.)
Pride and Glory falls into the latter category—it’s about a big, Irish family of cops, mostly good cops who are nonetheless willing to turn a blind eye to some small-level corruption.
Ray (Edward Norton, in a credible slow burn) is the most conflicted of the bunch. He was forced to lie on the witness stand about a cop killing (that also left him physically scarred) and the experience made him so depressed and guilt-racked, he pulled himself off the streets. Now there’s been a drug bust gone wrong—four cops are dead and Ray’s police captain father (Jon Voight) has convinced Ray to take the case. Of course, all evidence leads to massive corruption in his older brother’s division and specifically points to his live-wire brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell, who’s terrific).
Compared to last year’s We Own the Night, Pride and Glory does a much better job of fleshing out the characters and giving their choices real consequences. Ray’s division chief brother (Noah Emmerich), for example, has a wife who’s dying of cancer—if Ray rats him out, where will that leave his family? And the film is gritty and genuinely gripping, even if it succumbs to melodrama too often (beware of the scene with the Post reporter and the frazzled disgraced cop—it ends exactly as you hope it won’t).
It’s clear that director Gavin O’Connor has studied the likes of Sidney Lumet, Martin Scorsese, and Spike Lee—but he’s not the artist those men are, just a skilled imitator. Still, I’ve seen enough unskilled imitators to (somewhat) appreciate what O’Connor has done. In the meantime, can someone make a movie about a law-abiding cop? Anyone?