Pride and Glory Movie Review: Needs a Little More Pride

A tale of family and loyalty and dirty cops in New York that could have been so much more.
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Pride and Glory (2008) directed by Gavin O'Connor stars Edward Norton (Ray Tierney), Jon Voight (Francis Tierney Sr.), Noah Emmerich (Francis Tierney Jr.), Jennifer Ehle (Abby Tierney), and Colin Farell (Jimmy Egan). This is basically a story about a family of police officers in New York. The Tierneys are like a royal house of cops with the brother-in-law Jimmy Egan as the dark horse.

pride and glory

There is something decidedly Shakespearean about the whole dynamic of the Tierney clan. The problem is that Jimmy Egan is dirty, involved in taking money from drug dealers and killing the competition of the dealer they're backing. Egan has his own crew of cronies, all police officers. The viewer lands in medias res when several police officers are killed in what looks like a drug bust gone wrong.

Francis Sr. wants Ray to be involved in the investigation, despite the fact that Ray's obviously taken a step back from investigative work due to some previous trouble. There is a lot of tension in the family dynamic right from the get-go, not only between father and sons, but between the sons themselves, and it's a treat to see some of that acted out by the very talented cast of Norton, Voight, and Emmerich. Farell is fairly quickly shown to be the corrupt hothead in all this. As far as family goes, the wives of these police officers are shown in the full spectrum, from Francis Jr.s lovely spouse Abby (Jennider Ehle) who is dying of cancer, Senior's loyal wife Maureen (Leslie Denniston) and Ray's estranged wife Tasha (Carmen Ejogo).

The story is about family as much as it is about the actual catching of the bad guys. Bringing down Jimmy means that the rest of the Tierney clan will be shown in a less than favorable light, and Ray struggles with that. So this could have been a tale of family and greed and retribution and redemption. And in a way it is.

The only problem is that you are left with a sense that there has been a ridiculous amount of attention paid to the authenticity of the behavior and attributes of a New York cop, and there's a definite sensibility to each character driven scene, but there's no viable arc to this story and there is no real ending.

That strangely off-kilter feel that I got from the narrative is actually confirmed in the "Making of..." bonus feature of the DVD where the director talks about the fact that the script was unfinished when they started shooting and that the ending wasn't set. That, in and of itself, is not necessarily a problem, it's not the only movie I've seen that's had that going on. But here there is a lack of catharsis and above all a reasonable resolution to the whole mess the characters are in. To me that's a sad waste of good performances.

If you look at each scene individually it's all very shiny, but there's no consistent whole to make these things come together. Egan's punishment by the hands of an angry mob is supposedly the community he had been preying on taking their retribution, but again, this feels tacked-on and in direct opposition to all the gritty authenticity the movie claims to be invested in. The Tierneys seem to be coming through all this more or less unscathed, which feels like a evasion considering the question of responsibility within the ranks, but also within the family structure.

It's quite simply not very satisfying, and I honestly think it would have bothered me less if this was more of a run-of-the-mill cop flick without any further pretensions. It's not a bad movie in it's genre, but it has the kind of flaws you feel more deeply because of the cast, and that really is too bad. This could definitely have been more.

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