Friday, October 24, 2008

No glory is this cop drama

Mr. Intensity, Edward Norton, is back. He's starring in "Pride and Glory," a drama about corrupt New York City cops. Joining Norton in the intensity parade are Colin Farrell, John Voight and Noah Emmerich. They're all playing characters who belong to a family of Irish-American cops, the kind of guys for whom police work has become a family business that passes from generation-to-generation.

If you're familiar with Norton, Voight and Emmerich, you'll wonder at the casting decision that made them part of the same blood family, Voight as dad, and Norton and Emmerich as brothers. Farrell looks nothing like any of them, but at least he's only a brother-in-law. He's also the bad apple in the group.

I'm not giving away anything here because the script by Joe Carnahan and Gavin O'Connor lets us know right away that Farrell is part of a contingent of cops on the take -- and worse. An opening-picture cop killing brings the reluctant Norton onto center stage; he's asked to investigate, which puts him on a road that leads to his brother-in-law and may even implicate his brother. Will Norton's Ray Tierney do the right thing? What is the right thing anyway? And why is everything so damn dark in New York?

I can't fault the acting, although Farrell's ferocity is a bit much, even for this kind of picture. His New York accent? Not flawless.

It takes a reel or two to get all the relationships straight, but we eventually find ourselves in the middle of a drab thriller that breaks little new ground. It's not just that we've been down this road before, either. If this were the first movie about corrupt New York City cops, it might be a while before we got around to the second.

O'Connor, who directed, goes for maximum urban grit. This is tough stuff, but --- with the exception of a family holiday celebration -- everything feels recycled, a pale imitation in a long chain of cop movies. In that chain, "Serpico" remains the undisputed champ when it comes to exposing corruption. "Pride and Glory" falters on many counts, and because it isn't really focusing on one character's story, it winds up making moral complexity feel depthless and diffuse. For a supposedly butt-kicking drama, this one's too easy to shrug off.

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