After giving it much thought, the only positive thing in the entire film Pride and Glory is Jon Voight as the drunk father of a clan of New York City cops. And that’s only positive in an ironic way, as I don’t think his performance is meant to be as hilarious as it comes across. But nearly every other frame of this movie is a waste of time and celluloid, making Pride and Glory one of the worst movies of the year.
The story is Generic Corrupt Cops, and it makes the solidly mediocre Street Kings look like The French Connection. Pride and Glory is dull, predictable, ugly, filled with bad or lackluster performances, contains objectionable racial material and just generally lacking in anything worthwhile (except for a scene where Colin Farrell threatens to burn a baby with an iron and then, upon giving the screaming infant back to its mother, whispers ‘He’s a beautiful child.’ That’s fucking comedy right there). Even the title lacks a hint of an iota of a concept of flavor or originality.
One thing to say about Pride and Glory: it took me three quarters of the film to figure out everyone’s relationship with each other. Voight is the patriarch of the clan, and Ed Norton is his son, relegated to desk duty after a shooting incident years ago. Toby Emmerich is somehow his other son, a rising sergeant or something. Colin Farrel, it turns out, is his son-in-law, married to a daughter who Voight barely ever even acknowledges as existing (something he must take from reality, I guess).
Here’s the set up: Farrell is in Emmerich’s precinct. Most of his squad gets killed while raiding a Dominican drug lord’s apartment. Voight pulls Norton off the bench to investigate the ambush, and wouldn’t you know it, there are dirty cops in the NYPD. Guess who is their ringleader and has to fight Norton mano y mano to the strains of Irish music? Oh yeah, indeed.
And it takes two tedious hours of nonsense to get us there.
Farrell is, I suppose, the best actor in the film, but that’s not saying much. Constantly greasy looking, he’s filled with an uncomfortable manic energy – even when he’s laying in bed sleeping with his wife you can almost see his foot tapping away under the sheets. He’s one of these bad guys we’re supposed to feel bad for, since he has the wife and a bunch of kids he obviously loves and he’s doing the best he can in a system that doesn’t reward… zzzz… sorry, I just fell asleep going over this generic, boring bullshit that was old even when this movie – which has been sitting on a shelf for years – was made.
Edward Norton gives about as much to his performance as his lighting stand-in did. I’ve never seen Norton so deeply uninterested in the proceedings, and part of it may be that he’s saddled with a name but no character. He has an ex-wife that he wants to get back with (what good, but troubled, cop doesn’t?) and, in something out of a 70s cop movie, he lives on a boat. I guess that boat’s constant leak is meant as a metaphor for something, but who cares? The film never gives us a single reason to invest in Norton and his fakey looking scar, the representation of that shooting which still… haunts him… today.
You’ll rarely see me being the guy whining about racism in movies, especially crime films. These are movies about bad guys and good guys, and if the bad guys all live in one neighborhood or come from one country, then that’s how it rolls. It isn’t like the statement of these films is usually ‘This minority is horrible.’ Yet I get a sense of that from Pride and Glory, a film where no Dominican escapes unscathed. The bad guy Dominicans are scumbags, as they should be, and I have no problem with that. But every other Dominican in the story is either an animal or a blip; normally this wouldn’t be that big a deal, as like I said that’s the nature of good guy/bad guy stories. But Pride and Glory stages its final scenes amidst a series of protests and riots by the Dominicans of New York. It’s weird to see this outrage from an otherwise invisible (in the film community) move to the forefront of the story; when violence erupts it doesn’t feel like an outgrowth of anything that came before but a way of getting the finale wrapped up. There’s something dismissive about the way the Dominicans are used in the finale of the movie that feels worse than the backstabbing and murdering way they were presented earlier.
As a New Yorker I’m predisposed to liking any movie that is shot in my hometown, yet I’ve never seen a movie treat the city with as little care or interest as this one. Much as the story feels generic, so does New York feel like a generic city. If I was told that most of the movie was actually shot in Vancouver, I’d easily believe it. DP Declan Quinn isn’t one of the greats, but earlier this year I saw his work in Rachel Getting Married and really enjoyed it; here his camera is often lifeless, his shots often overdark and gloomy. The ugly, vapid camerawork perfectly complements the acting, writing and direction of this movie.
I really hated Pride and Glory. It feels like the pilot of a TV show I would never watch, or like a cop movie that would be playing in an episode of Seinfeld. I usually support the filmmaker when it comes to fights with the studio, but after suffering through Pride and Glory I understand why New Line kept this thing hidden away so long.