Written by Pollo Misterioso
Why do cop films try to not be cop films? Trying to expand on the genre is always refreshing, but when you deny the genre completely, what are you left with? Pride and Glory, the Warner Brothers film featuring Edward Norton and Collin Farrell, has the skeleton of a cop film, but it misses the meat that makes films like these so entertaining and worth watching.
Director Gavin O’Connor attempts to make a film that is more about the psychological nature of cops, showing what is happening behind the badge and the gun, but it never goes far enough into the characters and fails to short in the plot.
The stereotypes for a cop film are all there. You have the bad cop and good cop. Ray (Norton) is introduced with a scar on his face, which is the visual indicator that this man is emotionally wounded. He is about to get a divorce and has a troubled past. Don’t worry, he also seems to be the only person that can speak fluent Spanish, making him a valuable translator later in the film. Jimmy (Farrell) is the bad cop that is more of a hoodlum and thief than most people on the streets of New York. They are brother-in-laws, and both are cops with the NYPD.
Four cops are killed in the beginning of the film. Ray is asked by his father, played by Jon Voight, to head the task force to find the killer. Farrell and his men are after the same guy, but for reasons to cover up themselves in their own misdealing. Ray’s older brother Francis (Noah Emmerich) is also involved because it was his men that were killed. It turns out, that as Ray gets closer to finding the truth, the family becomes more involved and the consequences grow larger as we find out how everyone is involved in the crime. As it turns out, Jimmy is the ring leader for the corruption that is happening within the system.
The problem here isn’t hard to identify. Movies of this genre get its suspense and entertainment from solving the crime. It is the way that the film presents the problem that creates confusion and concern for a cop movie. O’Connor spends a good part of the film establishing the family and its importance to our characters. Unfortunately, the way that it is shot and edited together, the small vignettes with loved ones, become unnecessary flashes that seem more like forced sympathy than anything with substance. Francis’ fiancé just got engaged and is battling cancer, but I had no idea what her name was. A little too forced?
Unfortunately, the writers are to blame for this one. The cop characters become such stereotypes when they are trying to play against it. They are tough, but sensitive; troubled and lost within the system. It seems to be written as a series of short films that are strung together by the characters and loose plot line. But in jumping from scene to scene, the development that wants to be created, is lost. In fact, there is just too much emotion that drives each small scene, that there is no grit.
There is no connection to any of the characters, no interest in the crime, instead we are left watching cops think, cry, and emote about what is going wrong. This is not to say that there isn’t any good violence (there is a scene involving Farrell, a baby and an iron that gets very intense), but even this can’t straighten out the plot that is supposed to drive the film. The drunken father-figure Jon Voight says “keep the rage, cut the rest of it loose”—if only the movie could have taken some of its own advice.
The DVD extras that accompany this film are almost better than the movie itself. There is only a documentary on the special features entitled “Source of Pride: The Making of Pride and Glory” that is worth watching. You get to see the kind of training and preparation the actors went through to participate in this film. In trying to make the actors more like real cops, they followed around NYPD officers for weeks on the job and some of the stuff they did is very intense and they talk about their experiences with it. If only the movie were this interesting to watch.