PRIDE AND GLORY offers passionate performances in a story that is a series of letter-perfect clichés. The topic is police corruption grafted onto the innernecine struggles of the Tierneys, an Irish-American family of New York City cops with a thorny problem of malfeasance in their midst.
The thorn is Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), the cop who has married into the Tierney clan. Along with the children he contributes to the burgeoning family, he also brings a rogue element to the precinct run by brother-in-law, Fran (Noah Emmerich). It’s the typical stuff, setting up local crooks and stealing their loot. It’s all going swimmingly until a raid on one of the local crooks goes bad and four cops end up dead. Enter the senior Tierney (Jon Voight), an inspector with an interest in seeing the matter handled delicately and with as little notoriety as possible, and prodigal son and brother Ray (Edward Norton), who took a bullet in the face two years earlier during a questionable police action, lied to Internal Affairs, and has been quietly biding his time tracking down missing persons ever since. He’s cajoled back into working for the special task force by his father, and by the need to bring justice to the cop whose hand he held in the ambulance as he died on the way to the hospital. Naturally he discovers things about his brother’s precinct that make everyone unhappy, including himself for the uncomfortable position in which it puts him. That it’s also Christmas time doesn’t make it any easier.
The script, co-written by Joe Carnahan and director Gavin O’Conner is a rich character study with an execution that squanders it. Besides, as mentioned before, there being nothing new here, the grittiness of winter streets tenements, the shadowy lairs of drug dealers, don’t add up to an edgy thriller, action or psychological, thanks to the pacing. The attempts to juxtapose the dirty business at hand with the frippery of the holidays feels contrived, not tragic, and the pedestrian mixes freely with the poignant. Ray interrogating the cute little kid who was the only witness to a getaway is so warm and fuzzy that it is a genuine surprise not to have Jiminy Cricket make a cameo. At the other end of the spectrum is a heartrending, unsentimental performance by Jennifer Ehle as Fran’s terminally ill wife who is a bastion of integrity and strength in a failing body and shaved head. In between papa Tierney tipples too much and has ethical stand-offs with Ray and Ray’s noble sensibilities. Farrell shows his range, from wild-eyed loose cannon to tough yet tender family man. There is, however, no tension as to how any of this will turn out, what with Ray being such a straight arrow, though Norton, an actor of considerable gifts and not a little intelligence, does a fine job of imbuing as much anguish as possible into a character with no emotional arc to scale. There is also the question of why it is that when a group of random people on a street turn into an ugly mob, someone always just happens to have a baseball bat handy. Maybe it’s a New York thing.
PRIDE AND GLORY covers the sins of omission, commission, and missing the cinematic mark. Justice is served, but there’s little relish involved.