If people took the movies they watched at face value, they would assume that all police officers are drug dealers, thieves and murderers. "Pride and Glory" is the latest in a longtoo longline of crime dramas about dirty cops. In fact, it is more or less the same film as 2007's "We Own the Night
," only not half as smart. Director Gavin O'Connor (2004's "Miracle
") and screenwriter Joe Carnahan (2007's "Smokin' Aces
") treat the viewer as if he or she has never seen one of these, making a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to a plot that can be predicted pretty much from the start. What can't be predicted is how utterly inane the whole shebang will become before the end credits.
When four cops are killed in the apartment building of a drug lord by the name of Angel Tazo (Ramon Rodriguez), NYPD officer Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) smells a rat. With no one willing to give him answers on why the fallen policemen were there to begin with, Ray decides to take matters into his own hands and track down Tazo. In doing so, he discovers a whole underworld of corruption within his precinct, a secret that his own brother Francis Jr. (Noah Emmerich) and brother-in-law Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), both cops themselves, know more about than they're willing to let on.
"Pride and Glory" tells a secondhand story that brings nothing new to the table of good-cop/bad-cop sagas. It moves slowly through plot developments that aren't the least bit surprising, while introducing unpleasant violence (the threat of a steaming iron to a baby's face?) that turns many of the characters into such despicable beings that they might as well be stroking a curled mustache for the duration. Attempts at giving them consciences fail; even when they realize they've made wrong decisions, it doesn't excuse the criminal parts they've played. As for Ray, who is torn between his family tieshis father, Francis Sr. (Jon Voight), is a drunken ex-cop who talks ad nauseum about the importance of being faithful to your ownand what he knows is right, he may have a shred of dignity left in comparison to his fellow officers, but that doesn't automatically make him a well-rounded protagonist.
Just to make sure the running time exceeds two hours, director Gavin O'Connor tosses in a number of subplots that belong in different movies. Why is so much time spent lingering on Francis Jr.'s dying-of-cancer wife Abby (Jennifer Ehle) when, at the end of the day, she is but a manipulative writing construct? Why bring up the suspicions of Jimmy's wife, Megan (Lake Bell), if she is going to keep quiet and not play any consequential part in what is to come? What is up with the relationship between Ray and soon-to-be-ex-wife Tasha (Carmen Ejogo), who seem to still love each other but are kept apart for no reason other than Tasha's claim that she needs to be by herself? In the world of this picture, female characters have no place other than to stay at home and be steadfastly long-suffering.
Edward Norton (2008's "The Incredible Hulk
") is the lead as Ray Tierney, trying to get to the bottom of the truth and not liking what he finds out. Because the narrative is so overstuffed, Norton disappears for long stretches and, when he is there, too often blends in with the background. As shady brother-in-law and family man Jimmy Egan, Colin Farrell (2008's "In Bruges
") is typically intense, but overshadowed by an awful New York accent that can't hide the actor's natural Irish brogue. As Francis Sr., Jon Voight (2007's "Transformers
") slurs his way through half his scenes, but has the ability to become quite coherent when the script calls for him to deliver third-act monologues. In regard to Jennifer Ehle (2002's "Possession
"), she is scarily plausible as Abby, a wife and mother dying of cancer and grappling with the thought of leaving her family. Ehle's transformative work is wasted upon a film that forgets all about her by the end.
Speaking of the end, "Pride and Glory" may be mediocre for its first 100 minutes, but it falls completely apart in a climax that is overwrought, silly, and damagingly misdirected. Business set inside a convenience store while a riot begins outside is laughable, and it is followed up with a bar scene involving a childish fistfight and a heinously inappropriate music cue that couldn't be more poorly handled. Having understandably sat on the shelf for two years, "Pride and Glory" are two things that no one involved in this increasingly moronic slugfest should be feeling.