Angry corrupt cops who “bleed blue” and speak with heavy Brooklyn accents are nothing new at the movies. We’ve seen them for years, decades even, in everything from Serpico to last year’s We Own the Night. The trick to keeping audience interest is to add in some new elements to shake up the old formula. Pride and Glory, written by the son of a cop and starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell, attempts this by telling a multi-generational story of a family of policemen.
Ray and Francis Tierney (Noah Emmerich and Norton respectively) are New York police officers at very different stages of their careers. Francis, like his father and namesake (Jon Voight) before him, is a well thought of commanding officer, while Ray, a former hotshot, now a traumatized ex-street cop, is currently riding a desk at Missing Persons. At the urging of his father Ray is lured away from the relative safety of his desk to investigate the murder of four cops at a failed drug bust. When Ray’s investigation leads him to believe that his brother and brother-in-law (Colin Farrell) may be involved he is forced to choose between his family and his brothers in blue.
Pride and Glory doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and even the intergenerational twist isn’t that new—just ask James Gray, the director and screenwriter for We Own the Night—but it does a good job of presenting the moral quandary that arises when telling the truth is going to have serious consequences for the ones you love.
Ed Norton convincingly portrays Ray’s conundrum. He’s a bubbling caldron of bile that threatens to boil over at any moment, and if you’re Colin Farrell you might not like him when he’s angry. Norton expertly conveys anger, confusion and remorse often in the same scene. It’s a nicely calibrated performance that is better than the rest of the movie.
If you could describe Norton’s performance as finely tuned then only the opposite can be said of Farrell’s work. As dirty cop Jimmy Egan he is kind of one note, but it’s a good note. He plays the out-of-control cop as a delightfully unhinged man who will do anything—including menacing a baby with a piping hot iron—to get what he wants. It’s a performance that borders on camp, but Farrell keeps it on the right side of the line and his passion adds some much needed gusto to the film’s slower scenes.
Jon Voight, Noah Emmerich and the rest of the cast hand in solid performances, although there’s nothing nearly as memorable as Farrell’s wild ride.
In many ways Pride and Glory is little more than a slightly above average cop drama, but its willingness to splash around in the grey areas of cop morality and loyalty plus the commanding performances of Norton and Farrell earn it a recommendation.