October 30, 2008

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Pride and Glory (R)
Irish American New York city cops are all Irish and tough and full of clichéd cop talk in the grimly serious Pride and Glory, a movie that would make perfect drinking-game material.

Cop complains about the rat squad in IAB? Drink. Someone uses the phrase “jammed up”? Drink. Someone shows an early-era-NYPD-Blue-Sipowitz-like disdain for minorities? Drink. This movie will get you even more buzzed than the “maverick” drinking game.

And, as required, we have all the cop types here. There’s Ray Tierney (Edward Norton), a good cop who, after an early career misstep, is now dedicated to the truth, no matter the cost. There’s his brother, Frances Tierney Jr. (Noah Emmerich), a police captain who is busy looking after his sick wife (Jennifer Ehle — Lizzy Bennet is bald!) and therefore looks the other way at how things are getting done in his house. There’s Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), the Tierney boys’ brother-in-law, who is all shades of bad cop. And then there’s paterfamilias Frances Tierney Sr. (Jon Voight), who is from the old school (protecting our own, taking care of it in the family, etc.).

Many of these characters along with several other “on the job”-y, gritty everyman-type cops are at a police league football game when they hear about a “1013” and rush to the hospital/the scene to find that four cops have been shot, all of whom (not to ruin the suspense, though there’s none, so that would be hard) eventually die. We gotta find the unprintable-word-here who did this to our guys, say various characters. The elder Frances, a strong believer in the promise of his languishing-in-the-missing-persons-department son Ray, guilts the young man into joining the task force to find the shooter.

But Ray’s no head-cracking avenger; he wants to investigate the matter straight, especially when he begins to suspect that the police might have been involved in the pre-shooting activities of Tezo (Ramon Rodriguez), the man they suspect shot the officers.

Dirty cops, conflicted cops, old-fashioned cops — actually, I’d say these are all old-fashioned cops. Farrell’s brogue, which occasionally pokes through his generic tough-guy bark, fits right in with his character, but none of these characters seem to fit in with modern ideas about policing or modern portrayals of police officers on TV shows like The Shield and The Wire and even the various iterations of Law & Order. This movie makes the aforementioned NYPD Blue and the now equally ancient-seeming Homicide feel like documentaries in comparison.

The result is that this gritted teeth, life-and-death movie comes off as kinda silly. It’s actors dressed up like police officers and not once do you feel like you’re looking into the dark heart of law enforcement. You also don’t feel like you’re watching real human beings. Rather, you’re watching character types, so even if you could get over all the “Irish Eyes” hokiness (the actual name of a bar here) you can’t really feel invested.

And for a movie serving up this much reheated corned beef and cabbage, it really does drag on. Eternities seem to be spent on nonetheless under-developed sideplots involving women whose sole job is to look anguished. The story feels like it’s about to end a full 50-some minutes before it does and then disappoints by wobblingly slowly toward an anti-climactic and completely nonsensical fight scene in the Irish Eyes bar while outside social unrest seemly ripped from West Side Story plays out.

Pride and Glory feels dusty and stale with none of the paperback action novel excitement that a movie like this — so incapable of engaging an audience with character or story — needs to keep it from getting (ready the shot glasses) jammed up. C-

Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language and brief drug content. Directed by Gavin O’Connor and written by Joe Carnahan and Gavin O’Connor with a story by O’Connor, Greg O’Connor and Robert Hopes, Pride & Glory is two hours and nine minutes and distributed by Warner Bros.