A tried-and-true story of good New York City cops battling villainy and strong performances by well-regarded male leads Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, Noah Emmerich and Jon Voight are the two biggest audience-friendly highlights of co-writer/director Gavin O’Connor’s by-the-numbers crime thriller Pride and Glory. With technical polish equal to any large-scale studio release (thanks to production designer Dan Leigh and cinematographer Declan Quinn), Pride and Glory ’s commercial setbacks will likely originate from its all-too-familiar storytelling. In a genre as cluttered as the New York City crime drama, Pride and Glory suffers from comparisons, especially to last fall’s American Gangster. Without the anticipated critical word of mouth needed to build awareness, Pride and Glory relies upon the audience appeal of its mostly male cast. Unfortunately, Farrell, Norton and Voight lack the marquee power of American Gangster ’s Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington. An ordinary cop thriller at best, Pride and Glory looks unlikely to become a crossover hit, instead relying upon its target adult male moviegoers for modest box office returns.
Ray Tierney (Norton) is a NYPD cop from a family of cops. But family loyalty towards his brother Francis Jr. (Emmerich) and his brother-in-law Jimmy Egan (Farrell), as well as his larger-than-life father, former police chief Francis Tierney (Voight), quickly dissolves while investigating the murder of several officers. The likelihood is that dirty cops are involved, meaning that Ray’s detective work will tear his family apart.
O’Connor—best known for the independent melodrama Tumbleweeds and Miracle, his rousing drama about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team—tests his storytelling skills on flawed men and gritty surroundings, but fails to create anything new or surprising. Co-screenwriter Joe Carnahan, an expert on corrupt cop dramas thanks to his 2002 film Narc, never fully compensates for O’Connor’s lack of experience in the genre and their collaboration results in an ordinary tale despite the extraordinary efforts of their crew and cast.
Pride and Glory ’s greatest asset is Norton, perfectly cast, believably complex and troubled as an honest cop trying to balance family loyalty and justice. The movie jumps a notch in quality whenever he’s on screen. If there’s a downside to Norton, it’s that his co-stars, especially the always-frantic Farrell, pale in comparison.
While Norton is coming off the biggest hit of his career, the comic book actioner The Incredible Hulk, its young fans won’t likely seek out the R-rated Pride and Glory. Marketing campaigns that emphasize Norton’s acclaim as an actor will improve the film’s chances of besting its modest expectations. For O’Connor, perhaps Pride and Glory will be a one-time side project—an attempt at trying something new before returning to the type of uplifting stories he does so well.
Cast: Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight and Noah Emmerich
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Screenwriters: Gavin O’Connor and Joe Carnahan
Producers: Greg O’Connor
Rating: R for violence, adult situations and language
Running time: 125 min.
Release date: Oct. 24, 2008