Pride and Glory (2008)

© New Line Cinema. All Rights Reserved.
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Released:  Friday, October 24, 2008  
Length:  129 minutes
Studio: New Line Cinema
Genre: Drama/Suspense
Rating: Pride and Glory is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of AmericaUnder 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


Pride and Glory © New Line Cinema. All Rights Reserved.

A saga centered on a multi-generational family of New York City Police officers. The family's moral codes are tested when Ray Tierney (Edward Norton), investigates a case that reveals an incendiary police corruption scandal involving his own brother-in-law (Colin Farrell). For Ray, the truth is revelatory, a Pandora's Box that threatens to upend not only the Tierney legacy but the entire NYPD.

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Pride and Glory Theatrical Review

The police-drama, as an art-form, usually centers on family and betrayal.  The world of a police officer is a pressure cooker of low wages, an absolute code of honor, and danger.  The occupation also tends to follow heredity -- at least in the movies -- and we've seen any number of these where a younger officer's stoic father is a retired, or almost retired, senior officer that is respected and looked up to. Usually, in the ultra-macho world of cops, this isn't easy.

If all of this sounds a little cookie-cutter, well, it is.  Off the top of my head, I can think of two or three movies that used this format, and at least two of them had Irish cops featured as well.  It is no surprise, of course, that a police drama set in New York will be built using familiar material.  Look at all of the science fiction movies that feature space ships, but the value of the movie is in how these are used, and how the script transcends its archetypal elements.

I feel, in the end, Pride and Glory does not transcend its component elements in the most significant fashion and give us a compelling narrative that grips us all the way through.  To be certain, Ed Norton and Colin Farrell are excellent.  In fact, everyone in the movie does a good job, but the story seems to rely on family drama with too many families to actually make a compelling case to the viewer.

Take for example the eldest son in the family – he is the rising star, and has two cute kids.   He has men under his command that might or might not be corrupt; but he also has a wife dying of cancer that is taking a lot of his time.  That is only one family drama:  How does he deal with his wife's impending tragedy?  What about his kids?  What about his men?  What about his dad?  What about his career?  That is one of the simpler ones.

Edward Norton is separated from his wife who is a driving force for his character, but we only see her twice in the film -- both short, almost perfunctory scenes.  In a limited way, it appears he is trying to get back together with her, but that is questionable.  Does their separation relate to the story?  Not sure.  Mostly his inner torture is demonstrated to us by his leaky houseboat that he lives on.   He also has a bullet-scar on his cheek, that was explained, but during 90% of the film, it appears it is simply there to make him look more interesting; and, I guess, metaphorical.  We can see that Norton's character is emotionally scarred -- it is right there on his face!

If this seemed a bit heavy handed to me, it is nothing compared to some of the movie's violence scenes.  There is one scene in which an infant is threatened with torture; it was not only unnecessary but shocking.  I am not sure how a film can get away with showing a baby being tortured and threatened, but if there is one that does, it is Pride and Glory.  I do not know how they earned the right to do this.   I wondered if the author's intention was to make us, the audience, absolutely hate the character; but later, when the character is shown in more sympathetic circumstances, how are we to deal with that?

Perhaps it is meant to make a statement that baby-torturers love their (own) children too, but I'm not sure I'm happy paying for that message.  To be clear, it is not that I'm morally outraged by the movie – it is just a movie; but when I look at the filmmaker's message behind it, I find it muddled and dealing in shock-value.

Finally, the film is slow, in my opinion.  As a "serious drama", it can't all be kinetic explosions or car chases and shoot outs; but it seemed to meander for 130 minutes as the characters move towards their (well telegraphed) revelations.  The movie loves its character actors and its family backdrops, and it wants to give us a sense of place for these people, but this came at a frustrating pace, a lack of building forward momentum.  With each cut from one story or family to the next, I felt like just as the plot started moving; it was slowing down once again to allow yet another story in.

Pride and Glory does have a decent hard-edged feel to it.  It does deliver on stories about police corruption and the way that families sometimes have to make impossible choices over loyalty and love.  It has several great performances and a bunch of intense actors I love to watch.  I wish it had been a little tighter and a little faster because in the end, I felt it didn't sufficiently distinguish it from the genre pieces that it's composed of.


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