Monday, October 27, 2008

Pride and Glory

There are too many cop shows to even keep up. And with excellent ones like The Wire and The Shield, who needs more? The movies aren’t usually any better (We Own the Night anyone?). But here is a wildly explosive, refreshing take on a used formula.

Director Gavin O’Connor dives head first into a story about an investigation that follows the brutal murder of four NYPD cops. Veteran cop Francis Tierney (Jon Voight) wants his smart, burnt-out detective son Ray (Edward Norton) to lead the investigation. The four cops worked under Ray’s brother Francis Jr. (Noah Emmerich) and with Ray’s brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell). Ray hesitantly accepts the job, and is soon in way over his head.

With a riveting script by O’Connor and Joe Carnahan (Narc), Pride and Glory is a witty thriller that keeps you pinned to your seat. Ray soon discovers that Jimmy is dirty (way dirty) and his brother Francis may be in just as deep. So Ray, not knowing who to trust, has to go at it alone to find out what went down, and why.

Edward Norton (as always) is incredible. His blistering performance is his best since 2002’s 25th Hour. He gives Ray an emotional complexity that’s hard to find in most police-character dramas. Colin Farrell, who makes The Shield’s Vic Mackey look like Mother Teresa, delivers some of his best work as Jimmy. His villainous charm actually reminded me of Heath Ledger’s Joker, completely willing to push his kids on the swings, and in the next scene, use a hot iron as in interrogation tactic.

I’m glad Francis Jr. was cast with Noah Emmerich, an exceedingly talented character actor who has never fully reached stardom. Emmerich (so good in The Truman Show, Little Children and Miracle) is completely believable as a conflicted family man, bound to his cancer-stricken wife, and often turns a blind eye to the men in his unit. And Voight gives us a performance that’s so nuanaced, it reminds us of that Midnight Cowboy he once was.

Pride and Glory has suffered through several theatrical delays. Why? I’m not sure, probably business politics. But if it is marketed properly, its cast could receive a few Oscar nominations. I enjoyed this film immensely, even if the end is a little too easy. But with this group of extraordinary men, you can’t go wrong. A-

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