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Pride and Glory

Director: Gavin O'Connor
Cast: Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Noah Emmerich

(Warner Brothers; US theatrical: 24 Oct 2008; 2008)

All We've Worked For

Boats leak. It’s the nature of things.
—Frank Tierney (Jon Voight)


By the time Eladio (Rick Gonzalez) makes his single-scene appearance in Pride and Glory, the fate of his adversary has been exhaustively telegraphed. Still, this skeevy punk drug dealer embodies an essential problem. Not only is Eladio an easy cop-movie stereotype, so cocky and skinny and utterly brutal, but he also walks right up to Jimmy’s (Colin Farrell) front door. This breaks all the ordinary rules between cops and bad guys, in the most ordinary way.


First, there’s the corruption issue. Jimmy, a New York City police officer, has taken money from Eliado to kill some other punk dealer and hasn’t fulfilled the contract; this is not a little irritating for Eliado, who sees through that front door—and in the back yard, where Jimmy sends him in a display of turf-toughness—that his employee has a very pleasant suburban life: pretty wife Megan (Lake Bell), cute kids in snow suits, and swing set. Peeping in the kitchen window as he makes his way around the house, Eliado also demonstrates the breakdown of realms and rules that Jimmy has triggered. “You know how many cops I got as fucking neighbors?” Jimmy rasps. Eliado is untroubled, by that factoid or Jimmy’s subsequent, very showy assault on him: “Get your fucking dirty ass monkey language out of my house!” Megan’s watching through the kitchen window. Eliado knows he’s already won. “Say goodbye to the family for me,” he sneers.


Insecure, voracious, and increasingly reckless, Jimmy follows the route you know he will. Seeking his elusive target, he busts into a known associate’s apartment, where he reenacts Eliado’s intrusion times 10, slamming women to the floor, punching and kicking the gonnabe informant, threatening his baby with an hot clothes iron to the face. it’s clear Eliado picked the right guy as hired assassin: Jimmy has no moral line to cross. He only wants vengeance against all the good-guy cops in his family.


Make that Megan’s family. Jimmy’s married into a tangle of Irish rituals, expectations, and resentments, involving her dad, Chief of Manhattan Detectives Frank Tierney (Jon Voight), to her detective brothers, Ray (Edward Norton) and Francis Jr., that is, Franny (Noah Emmerich). Jimmy can’t begin to keep up (at a holiday dinner, red-faced, drunken Frank extols Ray’s brilliance and Franny’s work ethic, not even mentioning his son-in-law, who keeps his head bent over his dinner plate, dark eyes glancing up in non-expectation throughout the speech. Frank’s willful blindness makes all the adult children weary and anxious, but they tolerate the family gatherings, the boys in particular assuming a professional camaraderie that extends from and overwhelms family history.


Jimmy’s badness has, of course, thrown a wrench in all this fronting, when his fist attempt to complete his contract (on Latin Gangster Stereotype named, no surprise, Angel [Ramon Rodriguez]) resulted in the film’s operatic first scene: as Jimmy’s pounding opponents on a snowy football field, his cop-goons and the gangsters massacre one another. Bloody, loud, and unoriginal, the sequence sets up Pride and Glory‘s focus on the case that Ray will have to solve, a case that involves not only Jimmy, but also his commanding officer, Franny—distracted by the cancer-riven slow and painful death of his saintly wife Abby (Jennifer Ehle), he doesn’t know (or want to know) what Jimmy and his boys are up to. Actually, it doesn’t even matter what Franny knew or when he knew it, because he’s such an ethical, excellent guy that he takes responsibility for all of it—even, or especially, when Frank asserts they need to stick together to maintain their pensions and their lives and yes, “all we’ve worked for.”


The clichés come fast and furious throughout Gavin O’Connor ‘s movie, which he cowrote with Joe Carnahan (who should know better, having made the far superior version of this film, Narc). Ray has lately removed himself from dad’s unit (to the symbolic Missing Persons) and lives on a leaky boat (being adrift and all). This after helping to cover up some other fatal infraction, hating his choice and the fact that it cost him, as he says, “the woman I love!” This would be the lovely moral beacon Tasha I Carmen Ejogo), visibly not Irish and so, not prone to the in-group injunctions felt by everyone else in this awfully small circle.


Ray’s longstanding effort to break free of the clan is signaled in his fluency in Spanish (and so is able to speak sincerely with crucial witnesses his fellows dismiss as, say, “monkeys” who speak “ghetto bullshit”). He also doesn’t try very hard to hide the big Spartan purity chip on his shoulder, investigating alone, walking the streets alone, eating and drinking alone. It’s no surprise that Ray ends up in a ludicrous showdown with the object of his investigation (a moment marked by Jimmy’s dramatically silly question, “How do you think this is gonna end, Ray?”, suggesting he’s seen this movie before, just like you have). It is awfully tedious, however, that Ray leaves it to a conveniently roving and bat-wielding Gang of Gangster Stereotypes to resolve his fight for him. It’s the sort of dirty work that Eliado would have handled more delicately.

Rating:

Cynthia Fuchs is director of Film & Media Studies and Associate Professor of English, Film & Video Studies, African and African American Studies, Sport & American Culture, and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University.


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