Constructed almost entirely out of cop-drama clichés, Pride and Glory is a meat-and-potatoes thriller with very little meat (it does at one point feature a potato used as a silencer, though). Mediocre recent movies from We Own the Night to Street Kings have trod similar territory with similarly underwhelming results, and while Pride benefits from a decent lead performance by the always-dependable Edward Norton, it otherwise plods and lumbers its way through an overly familiar story about corruption and loyalty in law enforcement.
Norton is the emotionally damaged but morally upstanding detective who just wants to do the right thing, while Colin Farrell is the ruthless, ends-justify-the-means cop whose moral compromises have blinded him to the consequences of his actions. In between Norton’s Ray and Farrell’s Jimmy is Ray’s brother Francis (Noah Emmerich), commander of Jimmy’s unit and tacit endorser of their criminal practices. When four of Francis’ officers wind up dead in a shootout, Francis and Ray’s cop father (Jon Voight) makes sure Ray is assigned to the investigating task force. The maneuver backfires, though, as Ray soon comes across a ring of corruption led by Jimmy, who just so happens to be married to Ray and Francis’ sister.
So it’s about family/cop loyalty versus justice and doing the right thing, much like We Own the Night. And it’s about intensely violent and corrupt cops pursuing their own selfish ends, much like Street Kings. It’s also full of dialogue like “You don’t know what it takes to do what we do” and “This ends tonight” and everything else you might find in the random movie-cop-speak generator. Norton is appropriately intense, but he’s done this kind of thing before with more conviction. Farrell never quite conveys Jimmy’s serious menace, and frequently loses hold of his American accent. Only one scene, in which an enraged Jimmy nearly takes an iron to an infant, has the suspense and immediacy that a movie like this needs to overcome its tired premise and milieu.
Director Gavin O’Connor, whose last feature was the feel-good hockey movie Miracle, piles on the New York City grit, and clearly wants to emulate lean 1970s thrillers like The French Connection. But his world never feels authentic, and the violence (even in the aforementioned infant/iron scene) is sometimes too extreme and flashy. Co-writer Joe Carnahan once made his own effective 1970s cop pastiche, Narc, but lately he’s been more into over-the-top cartoonish violence, as in the awful Smokin’ Aces. Nothing in Pride is nearly that vulgar, but none of it is particularly exciting or engaging, either. Somehow all the violence and double- and triple-crossing just ends up dull, and it’s hard to care about who’s betraying whom when none of the characters is remotely sympathetic or compelling.
As forgettable and generic as its title, Pride mostly just feels superfluous, with nothing new to add to the cop genre. Its little melodrama plays out sluggishly and with little deviation from formula, and any small flourishes that Norton and O’Connor add aren’t enough to rouse the movie from its torpor.