There’s been a lot of talk the last few years about how television has become more cinematic, often outpacing theatrical films for depth and complexity. A prime example is “Pride and Glory,” an ugly and unpleasant cop drama that tries — and fails — to be even a fraction as morally complicated as FX’s “The Shield.” Granted, “The Shield” has had 80 hours to spin its web while “Pride and Glory” only has two. But I bet any random two “Shield” episodes would offer more originality, intelligence, and action than this warmed-over junk.
“Pride and Glory” begins with four New York City police officers being killed in a tenement during a botched drug raid. Ray Tierney (Edward Norton), your standard-issue Grim-Faced Cop Who’s Haunted By The Past, is assigned to head up the task force investigating the massacre, which is made all the more poignant by the fact that Ray’s brother, Francis (Noah Emmerich), was the dead cops’ commanding officer. Francis and Ray’s brother-in-law, Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), another cop, was friends with the fallen men, too, and we learn soon enough that the reason for the cops’ visit to that tenement, and Jimmy’s connection to it all, may not be 100 percent above-board.
That’s right, folks: It’s a movie about crooked cops. Yes! Crooked cops! In New York City, even! Thank goodness someone has finally made a movie on this under-explored topic!
As Ray starts to suspect Jimmy of being involved in something dirty, Jimmy and his surviving crew members run around coercing witnesses, beating up perps in exchange for favors, and digging themselves in deeper the way these scoundrels always do. An innocent woman is punched in the mouth. A baby is threatened with a hot iron. Jimmy is HARDCORE, yo! Colin Farrell, who learned a Brooklyn accent for the role but mostly just practiced the F word, is solid, if occasionally overwrought.
Ray is torn between his family — his father, played with amusing drunkenness by Jon Voight, is a cop, too — and his conscience. Edward Norton, who has seldom given a bad performance, strikes the right tone with the weary, embattled Ray, but what can you do with a screenplay this generic? Written by Gavin O’Connor (“Tumbleweeds”) and Joe Carnahan (“Narc,” “Smokin’ Aces”) and directed by O’Connor, the movie recycles old plotlines (last year’s “We Own the Night” is a good comparison) without even trying to put a fresh, original spin on them.
And so we are left to ponder the facts. “Pride and Glory” (an arbitrary title, by the way) is grim, abrasive, and hard to watch, full of swaggering, manly men shouting at each other like high school drama students who have just learned how to be vulgar. Its story and characters are overly familiar. It is shallow and vain, yet thinks it is gritty and meaningful. No thank you. I’ll get my crooked-cop fix on “The Shield,” thank you very much.
D (2 hrs., 5 min.; )