Tuesday, 10 July 2012
PRIDE AND GLORY
(Gavin O'Connor, 2008) Gavin O'Connor doesn't really do original. His films - from drama Tumbleweeds to sports films Miracle and Warrior, to this police corruption drama - hit all the usual, expected beats, feature predictable, familiar characters and plot-points, and generally offer solid storytelling and entertainment. What he does well is emotion. Pride and Glory is a derivative, cliched police procedural, familiar in it's every particular, but, while it never approaches the power and intensity of Warrior, O'Connors best film, it still truly sings at certain points. That is partly down to O'Connor's style; he works in a gritty, you-are-there register, atmospheric, tonally downbeat and generally realistic, eschewing any flourishes but the occasional touch of visual poetry. There is a definite and pleasing '70s vibe to the material and the approach. He also casts extremely well. Here he has assembled an impressive array of macho character actors (the likes of Frank Grillo, Shea Wigham and John Ortiz) to back up his leads. Those leads are Edward Norton as Ray, a New York police detective who has been working a desk job following an unspecified trauma from some past raid gone wrong, but finds himself - at the behest of his father (Jon Voight), an alcoholic veteran - working on an investigation into the shooting of three cops during a drug raid. His discovery of serious corruption inside the Precinct run by his brother (Noah Emmerich) leads him into conflict with his brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell), a rogue dirty cop who does deals with drug lords, arranges hits and tortures innocent people for information. The leads all relish their big confrontations, but those scenes are part of O'Connor's problem as a dramatist; he seems to think in terms of operatic confrontation, actors screaming as they eyeball one another. It works when the actors are as good as the ones on show here, though the best moments belong to the ever-impressive Jennifer Ehle as the terminally ill wife of Ray's brother. Her silent despair as she watches her sleeping children one night is perhaps the films most piercing moment. Aside from that, it's very much a collection of scenes reminiscent of other scenes in better movies. Cops bust down doors, cops refuse to be intimidated, cops have regretful conversations with estranged wives. Nocturnal meets occur in deserted industrial areas. The Irish-American mileau of dingy bars, drunken sentimentality and suffocating family is nothng new, but is nicely evoked. The violence is vivid but not especially memorably-staged. The cast are all fine; Farrell and Norton give their all to characters who are limited by generic necessity, Emmerich is as good as he ever is, bowed beneath the weight of his sadness and regret, while Voight powerfully plays another in a long succession of old lions. At over two hours, it's far too long, with pretensions of saying something about the law and justice, when really it's merely a powerful little family drama with some pulp in its DNA.