“Pride and Glory” is a morality play in a minor key, a movie about dirty cops and the way that dirt soils everybody with a badge and makes us all a little less safe. But throwing a cast this impressive at a story this predictable in a genre this tired is something of a waste.
Edward Norton and Noah Emmerich play brothers who have followed the old man, the Chief, played by Jon Voight, into the NYPD. Colin Farrell is a cop who has married into their clan. But all is not well with the extended Tierney family.
Ray (Norton) has never gotten over a shooting that left him with scars, and not just the one we see along his cheek. He’s hiding out in Missing Persons, still sending gifts to his soon-to-be-ex wife. Francis (Emmerich) has advanced through the ranks, but has a wife, played by Jennifer Ehle, dying of cancer. And Jimmy Egan (Farrell) is up to his eyeballs in something that smells.
A bloody shootout between drug dealers and cops has left four officers dead.
“You keep the rage. Cut the rest of it loose,” Jimmy advises. The urgency that Jimmy and Francis feel about finding the surviving shooter is compounded by the knowledge that they don’t want this guy to talk. Dad wants Ray on the “task force” out to track down this killer.
“Go at it with all the gifts God gave’ya,” he charges his son, even as he’s telling the other son, “We stay out in front of the task force on this.”
Their whole corner of the Force is circling the wagons and Ray, a once promising detective, is the last one to figure that out. Every lead he finds is shared with the bad guys.
He spends the Christmas week of this investigation permanently one step behind the folks who want this wrapped up with a corpse. Dad is always there with a lecture about loyalty, the unwritten code of the men and women in blue. And Ray wonders, as do we, how deep into the ranks this stain spreads.
Farrell plays Jimmy in a beady-eyed fury, Norton makes Ray smart but gun-shy, and Voight chews the scenery in a memorable drunk scene or two. Ehle, her head shaved, gives the tale a pathos and Shea Whigham stands out as a cop gone wrong.
You couldn’t get a terrible movie out of this cast at gunpoint, even one co-written by Joe “Smoking Aces” Carnahan. Was it his idea to have Ray call for backup “forthwith?” Routine as the plot is, the film has a gritty look and feel, and still works well enough on the strength of characters and streetwise, jargon-filled scenes that good actors give a real dramatic heft.
“Pride and Glory” goes off the tracks a couple of times before we hear the title line uttered by a cop remembering why he picked up the badge, and the finale hurls the film completely in the ditch.
What we’re left with isn’t an embarrassment, but isn’t anything for this proud cast to glory in, either.