Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pride and Glory: None of either

Pride and Glory (2008) • View trailer for Pride and Glory
One star (out of five). Rating: R, for violence, drug use, torture, nudity and relentless profanity
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.30.08
Buy DVD: Pride and Glory • Buy Blu-Ray: Pride and Glory [Blu-ray]

Given the degree to which he micro-manages the films with which he's involved — going so far as to supply an uncredited script that helped shape this summer's The Incredible Hulk — I'm amazed that Edward Norton would have had anything to do with a flick as offensively tawdry as Pride and Glory.
Having just learned that three of his cop associates have been slaughtered, and
that a fourth lies near death in the hospital, Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell, left)
broods while brother-in-law Ray (Edward Norton) offers comfort. Alas, we
quickly realize that Jimmy knows more than he's telling about the catastrophe,
as Ray — a seasoned detective — will discover on his own.

This laughably grotesque cop thriller would be more at home as a late-night original on Cinemax, where viewers expect little beyond mindless carnage.

I wasn't surprised to discover that this film had been sitting on a studio shelf for a few years. It should have stayed there.

Director Gavin O'Connor showed genuine potential with 2004's Miracle, which offered both a great story and a memorable performance from star Kurt Russell; it remains one of the best of this decade's many inspirational sports sagas. And while I can't fault a director who wants to stretch his wings, O'Connor obviously should have tried some other genre, because he's impressively unsuited for urban thrillers.

Norton can be an excellent actor; he absolutely isn't here. Either he gave up and phoned in his performance, or O'Connor lacked the ability to coax a better job out of his star ... or both.

Either way, the result is embarrassing.

The same is true of Colin Farrell, also capable of much better work, but here reduced to a stereotype so shopworn that it should have been retired 40 years ago: the opportunistic Irish cop gone bad, whose increasingly vile behavior threatens everything he holds dear, etc., etc.

I once thought Farrell had the makings of a promising career. After high-profile rubbish such as Alexander, Ask the Dust, Miami Vice and now this, I'm no longer certain.

Because, let's face it, at no time could this misbegotten script — credited to Gavin O'Connor, Gregory O'Connor and Robert Hopes, from a screenplay by Gavin O'Connor and Sacramento's own Joe Carnahan — have been anything but an artistic fiasco for any actor foolish enough to embrace it.

The broad strokes probably came from Carnahan; Pride and Glory bears the blend of violence and corruption that we'd expect from the guy who brought us Narc, Smokin' Aces and Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane.

Somewhere along the way, though, too many additional hands got involved; the result is a laughably ridiculous picture that's too stupid to be taken seriously, but not stylized enough to be passed off (or enjoyed) as high camp.

What Pride and Glory is, mostly, is a waste of time ... and, clocking in at slightly more than two hours, that's a lot of wasted time.

The New York City-based saga opens on a police drug bust gone horribly awry: four cops and several scumbags dead, and a wounded shooter in the wind. All the cops were part of a squad commanded by Francis Tierney Jr. (Noah Emmerich), who works in the same precinct as his highly respected father, Francis Sr. (Jon Voight), a world-weary veteran with a tendency to drink too much.

The Tierney family, it turns out, is something of a police dynasty. Francis Sr.'s other son, Ray (Norton), is a shrewd and observant detective who, for the past few years, has farmed himself out to desk work in the wake of Some Previous Crisis.

Ray and Francis Jr.'s sister, Abby (Jennifer Ehle), is married to Jimmy Egan (Farrell), also a cop on Francis Jr.'s squad.

Francis Sr. insists that Ray hit the streets again, to catch the shooter and bring some closure to the obviously distraught Francis Jr. Trouble is, neither Ray nor his father knows that Jimmy, his best cop buds and the four dead cops all are/were running drugs, and are rotten to the core. Indeed, the aforementioned drug bust was a set-up and planned assassination, prompted by Jimmy's belief that those four cops had gotten "out of control."

Yeah, like "control" is anything Jimmy Egan would recognize.

That's the major problem throughout this film. Farrell's character is such a blindingly obvious psychopath that it's impossible to imagine how his wife, brothers-in-law and father-in-law could fail to have noticed, for years, that they're sharing meals with a fruit loop who'd (for example) threaten an infant with a hot steam iron as a means of coercing some information from a witness.

That scene, by the way, also demonstrates this script's frequent tin-eared tendencies; having secured the desired confession, Jimmy tenderly returns the baby to its mother's arms, as Farrell says — I'm not making this up — "He's really beautiful." Small wonder last week's preview audience erupted into jeering laughter, both then and after hearing other ludicrous bits of dialogue.

Ray, the story's truly righteous character, lives on a leaky houseboat. (The symbolism is as subtle as an atomic bomb.) We eventually learn that Ray remains deeply conflicted after having lied, against his better judgment, during the investigation that followed a previous violent encounter that left an innocent civilian dead. This was, Ray's father insisted, the most expedient solution; the subsequent anguish cost Ray his marriage.

This time, then, Ray has no intention of being party to a cover-up; trouble is, he very quickly realizes, through Solid Police Work, that his brother is involved to at least some degree, his brother-in-law to a likely greater degree. What price family honor?


Sure, a better script could have woven a compelling drama from such elements, but this hack screenplay doesn't even try for verisimilitude. All bad guys are faceless thugs with guns: one-dimensional grotesques who serve no purpose beyond briefly menacing one of our protagonists before getting killed.

Ray, Jimmy and Francis Jr. speak and act in ways that make no sense beyond the necessity to proceed from one ill-conceived scene to the next. Abby gets one quick moment where we glimpse, in Ehle's worried eyes, that maybe — just maybe — she's starting to see Jimmy as something other than a doting husband and father. (Gee, ya think?) But nothing ever comes of this, and Ehle's character simply vanishes during the increasingly absurd third act.

Oh, yes. The climax.

Not wanting to spoil even something this dreadful, I can't be specific; suffice it to say that Ray and Jimmy's eventual clash is the stuff of movie legend ... as in, you'll rarely experience a scenario so hilariously inept. And, bad as that confrontation is, the following plot hiccup is even more ludicrous.

Much of this film takes place at night, and in dark buildings; many of the details are difficult to extract in the murk. It's a shame cinematographer Declan Quinn didn't take that one step further, and simply leave the lens cap on. During the entire shoot.

So we could have been spared the whole sorry mess.

No comments:

Post a Comment