Everything about the dirty cop thriller "Pride and Glory" is formulaic and forgettable, even down to its generic title.
It could be an uplifting drama about a basketball team breaking racial barriers, or it could be about an elite squadron of World War II fighter pilots. You'd never know the difference and it wouldn't matter anyway. Instead, "Pride and Glory" is an overlong saga of good and bad New York police officers battling for control, one that plays out both in back alleys and quiet suburbs.
Edward Norton and Colin Farrell chew up the scenery and spit it back out again as brothers-in-law and brothers in blue. When a cop killer takes down four of their comrades, years of schemes and resentments come bubbling to the surface.
It's no secret who is on which side: Norton's Detective Ray Tierney is the honorable one and Farrell's Jimmy Egan, who is married to Ray's sister (Lake Bell), is on the take. But Ray's older brother, Francis (Noah Emmerich), whose men were killed in the opening ambush, is also a factor, as is patriarch Francis Tierney Sr. (Jon Voight), the head of the detective division.
These are Irish cops, and just to pile on the cliches, Ray and Jimmy have a climactic, knock-down-drag-out brawl at their favorite hangout, a bar that's literally called Irish Eyes, with Irish music blaring in the background. At Christmas, no less! (That holiday is just one of the occasions for Dad to get sloshed on whiskey and start slurring about how proud he is of his sons. Poor sap.)
If director Gavin O'Connor's film sounds familiar, that's probably because it's a lot like "We Own the Night," which came out almost exactly a year ago. Joaquin Phoenix was the black-sheep brother, Mark Wahlberg was a young police captain on the rise and Robert Duvall was their veteran-lawman father. That movie was just as much of a throwaway, despite its similar pretensions of Greek tragedy.
O'Connor, who is as far away as humanly possibly from the last movie he directed -- the 2004 crowd-pleaser "Miracle," about the gold medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team -- co-wrote the script with Joe Carnahan ("Narc"). O'Connor and his twin brother, Gregory, the sons of a New York cop, came up with the story along with Robert Hopes. In theory, these are people who know this world intimately, so it's mind-boggling that they were unable to breathe new life into such a well-worn premise.
The question isn't who is corrupt but rather whether the family can -- and should -- keep the corruption from becoming known. This results in many secret conversations away from the ears of the more innocent members of the clan (wives and children) in which characters rehash who knew what about whom and when. A subplot involving Francis Jr.'s wife (Jennifer Ehle), who has cancer, feels like an underdeveloped afterthought.
For a film about violence and action, "Pride and Glory" has absolutely zero momentum, and the dark, muddled visuals from cinematographer Declan Quinn certainly don't help. There is, of course, the obligatory funeral featuring officers in their formal uniforms and bagpipes blaring on a bitterly cold winter day. You get the picture -- you've seen it all before.
Things don't really get interesting until almost the end of the movie, when Ray provides some unexpected answers at an interview with internal affairs. Then again, maybe that scene just feels inordinately exciting because it's the only one we didn't see coming.