So, two cops walk into a bar and start overemoting. ... See, it's best to lead with a joke when considering this solidly made but relentlessly bleak cop drama because, overall, the viewing experience is fairly depressing. As crisp as a November morning, loaded with strong performances and tightly controlled bursts of intensity, the film's also pretty daunting, with a creeping sense of doom as inevitable as nightfall.
Pride and Glory trudges a very familiar beat: corrupt big city cops who fight, and scream and steal and abuse their livers in dingy barrooms decorated with faded tinsel shamrocks. The plot revolves around a core of decorated NYPD officers, with very different approaches to the family biz, but all with the same dedication to cop-flick formula — stoic, Irish-American brooding.
Ed Norton's casually — that's predictably — brilliant as Detective Ray Tierney, the most scarred but noble member of the bunch, forced out of self-imposed semi-exile and pushed back into the game by a shadowy drug den shootout that leaves four cops dead. Older brother Francis Jr. (Noah Emmerich) is their commanding officer, a good guy who refuses to believe what he knows is the dirty secret behind the mysterious slayings, while overproud papa Francis Tiereny Sr. (Jon Voight) tries to drink his way through any obstacle. Colin Farrell does his trademark loose-cannon shtick as Jimmy, the Tierney clan's unhinged fuck-up brother-in-law, who's up to his bushy eyebrows in slime. He's the head of a rotten pigs ring that'd make old Serpico barf; while the audience gets a hint of their dirty tendencies early on, it takes the bulk of an hour and a half to reveal just how low the cops will sink for a buck. In fact, Jimmy pulls a stunt with a hot clothes iron that'll stick long after the movie fades from memory.
Director Gavin O'Connor shoots everything for optimum midwinter gloom, and knows when to clamp down for one of his star actor's many obscenity-laced, saliva-flinging tirades. These guys are giving it their best shot, but there's nothing here we haven't seen them do before — and no willful act can make this story any less predictable. Each moment is heavy on hardcore grit, as if to power beyond clichés, but the movie's as compelling as it is empty. About the only thing the film goes easy on are the bagpipes at the funerals.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].