Director: Gavin O?Connor
Starring: Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, Noah Emmerich
UK Release date: 7 November 2008
Certificate: 15 (130 mins)
Police procedurals seem to have become the vehicle for Hollywood’s meditations on ethics. Pride and Glory has corrupt cops, family loyalty, Irish-Americans drinking in bars that play hip-hop versions of traditional fiddle tunes and three powerful performances from Edward Norton, Colin Farrell and Noah Emmerich. Although it drags in the last half hour, and throws in a race-riot to conveniently resolve any remaining moral complexities, Pride and Glory makes a solid effort to represent both darkness and the surrounding shades of grey.
Norton gets to play the hero, Ray. His investigation into the deaths of four police starts to uncover dirty deeds within brother Francis’ department, leading to his brother-in-law Jimmy (Farrell, in full De Niro impersonation mode). Ray refuses to let family loyalty interfere with his duty, but nasty, violent Jimmy tries to enmesh Francis and Ray in his murder and drug-stealing business. Ray is confronted by his father – a workmanlike turn from Jon Voight – before teaming up with Francis to do the right thing.
The three men span the range of moral positions, with their social status reflecting the consequences of their actions. Ray is divorced, troubled and diffident about his career while consistently doing the right thing; Jimmy has a good family life that is matched only by his moral turpitude; and stuck in the middle, Francis has a dying wife and a fast-track career. The women, needless to say, are barely characterised.
Apart from Farrell’s surprisingly good performance, this is all familiar ground. A family Christmas stresses the closeness of Irish families, tawdry sex and murders emphasise the bleak reality of the underclass. Only when Jimmy’s underworld contacts begin to arrive at his home is any real threat evinced. Even this is dealt with through macho posturing and sinister gangster cliché. This simplicity, however, serves the film and keeps the plot moving steadily without resorting to silly twists. Since the baddies are established clearly and early, the story has the measured urgency of a classical drama.
Although the film entertains, and is suitably brutal and gory in those scenes that reveal the wrongdoing, it does little to capture the problems of moral behaviour. The right actions are always obvious – not shooting suspects and ripping off store-owners, or telling the truth about who suffocated the drug-dealer – and Jimmy’s late speech about how he has been corrupted by the dirty streets is both unconvincing and a cliché. That Jimmy gets a measure of redemption from being torn to death by a mob is made clear by a burst of heavenly choir and an arty shot of a train passing overhead. The film may affect a dour New York colour scheme, but its values are clear.
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