Gavin O’Connor’s Pride and Glory is apt to be an endurance test for all but those who are impressed by a big-name cast and tons of murky cinematography (the film looks gloomier than Saw V). Cobbled together by O’Connor and the mystifyingly overrated Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces), it’s a tale you’ve seen a good 100 times before, and if only 85 of those 100 are actually better than Pride and Glory, the other 15 aren’t any worse.
It’s Generational Police Drama 101 at its dullest—right down to its tightly knit American “Oirish” family, the kind that likes to gather at one of those watering holes with a clever “touch of the auld sod” name (in this case, Irish Eyes) and quaff copious quantities of Jameson’s while pseudo-Celtic folk tunes spin on the jukebox. This rubbish was old back when Pat O’Brien was still getting lead roles in A-grade pictures (roughly pre-1938). The alternative, of course, would be an American-Italian police family. But when the script is written by guys named Carnahan and O’Connor, what are the chances of that happening? Why not a nice American-Hungarian police family for a change? They could hang out at some joint called Istvan’s and knock back Egri Bikavner to gypsy music. Well, maybe not.
Anyway, what we have here is a B action picture that has somehow deluded itself into thinking it’s important. The film’s blinding revelation appears to be that there are some dirty cops out there who trade on the loyalty of less dirty and even 99.44 percent pure cops in order not to be outed. Who knew? Well, everyone in the audience for starters is my guess. In any case, since the film thinks itself important, we’re treated to two-plus hours of murky cinematography, people yelling at each other and characters who fit the description of Bridget Jones’ friend: Those who like “to say ‘f**k’—a lot.” It all looks phony and it all sounds even phonier.
The story—such as it is—involves four cops getting murdered on Christmas Eve. (Can you believe it? Yeah, you probably can.) These dead guys were all under the command of Francis Tierney Jr. (Noah Emmerich, Little Children), son of the genially alcoholic police-something-or-other-important (I never quite understood what) Francis Tierney (Jon Voight, who lost all credibility around the time of Bratz and September Dawn). The question is whether or not something corrupt is going on under Junior’s command. And poor Junior already has his hands full trying to live up to Senior, while also dealing with a wife (Jennifer Ehle) who is dying of cancer.
With all this going on, Senior presses his younger son, Ray (Edward Norton), to take a hand in the investigation—even though Ray has opted out of high-stakes police work because of something bad that happened before the movie began (and I don’t mean the green-lighting of this project). Ray, of course, is dealing with troubles of his own. He has an estranged wife (Carmen Ejogo, The Brave One), and picturesquely lives on a boat with a flooding bedroom (kinda like John Malkovich in Burn After Reading, but minus the laughs). He really wants no part in this job, but then we wouldn’t have a story if he told Senior to take a hike.
Is there corruption? Well, uh, of course. And while Francis Jr. isn’t personally responsible, he must shoulder some of the blame, especially since the King of Corrupt is none other than family son-in-law Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), who, naturally, is in Francis Jr.’s department. What a shock, this isn’t. The problem is that neither is anything else that happens. Every scene that’s supposed to land like a gut punch has much more in common with a landed fish flopping about on a boat deck—to the degree that the audience I saw the film with was pretty much entirely on its feet the second the final fade-out hit the screen. The sole exception to this is a scene involving Jimmy, a steam iron and a baby, but that gasp-inducer was reels before the climax, which gets sillier, stupider and more predictable by the moment.
The cast does what it can with the material, but is stymied at every turn by the writing and direction—or lack thereof. Bottom line is that this isn’t even engaging trash; it’s bloated, boring, bad and utterly depressing. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language and brief drug content.