Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pride and Glory

Wanna See My 25th Hour Rant?

I wonder if a film like this could be made here at all. Not that you can't do it on the cheap, because it's literally sans explosions and action sequences that calls for things to be wrecked or shoot em ups in built up areas, and all you need are charismatic actors to bring the plot to live, but one with the story of having corrupt cops within the force? And it's not just a make-believe force, but one that says NYPD on its sleeves.

Yes, there are disclaimers put out immediately when the end credits roll that it's a work of fiction, and the movie originally planned on being made in 2002, which for obvious reasons of not wanting to taint (if for the lack of a better word) the NYPD at the time of a heightened threat environment. But I suppose our film industry probably is not mature enough, or if permission will be given if at all, for our own force to be used as a more realistic backdrop for a moral (or there lackof) story such as Pride and Glory.

It's a cop drama about a family of cops who get embroiled in a scandal, and having their morality put to the sword. Beginning with the murder of four officers under the charge of the CO Francis Tierney Jr (Noah Emmerich), dad Francis Sr (Jon Voight) gets adamant that his best son Ray (Edward Norton) join the task force to weed out the cop killer. But slowly Ray begins to discover a link back to his cop brother in law Jimmy (Colin Farrell), and the rabbit hole goes down a lot further with possible involvement back to his own family, together with opening up a Pandora's Box that implicates almost everyone in the precinct.

Unfortunately this is not an investigative drama per se, because like Confession of Pain, it decides to show all its hand 30 minutes into the movie, and you'll know who are those responsible, together with who is indirectly guilty within the force. The only thing left is the extent of their involvement, but there becomes rather rudimentary. Everyone in the story have varying shades of grey, and nobody is squeaky clean, even for Ray as he demonstrates some unorthodox investigative techniques involving promises to his informants. And most of the supporting cop characters do seem a little surreal when you observe how they can get away with the blatant corruption that they engage in.

While it slowly builds upon the story despite its revelation midway, the finale becomes something of a letdown because of its convenient way of wrapping everything up, and gets marred by some out of place fisticuffs which seem to draw some laughter rather than its intended gentleman's way of getting things resolved sans weapons. Also, there was a sub plot involving an investigative journalist which gets introduced in the third act, and then junked unceremoniously, rather than allowing this sub plot develop through.

Pride and Glory boasts a stellar cast with powerful performances, from Jon Voight's dad who wants Ray to cover up as much as he can so as to protect his eldest son and not let their family legacy get tainted by a scandal which they can spin it to their advantage. I thought Noah Emmerich is slowly becoming quite a strong character actor, despite his rather low key presence and screen time in the movie. Edward Norton is typical in his flawless delivery, this time wearing a physical scar to represent an emotional wound which his character carries, a reminder of how he's now faced with the same unfair odds of having to shoulder some blame and spin facts to everyone's advantage.

Colin Farrell though returns to his bad boy roots with some scenes that will enrage you toward his Jimmy character, where money talks and power rocks, and being the in-law, you'll feel his fear of being sidelined should the adage of blood running thicker than water come true. I thought he stole some of the other actors' thunder each time he comes on screen to light it up with corrupt intensity, given that Norton's Ray does a disappearing act from time to time.

It's standard fare, and without any element that will make you sit up and go wow. That doesn't mean that it's a bad film, but lacked that particular x-factor in making it memorable. It wanted to tread in the murky waters of the questioning of morals, but in the end doesn't address it head on and felt a bit of a let down. Even the superb performances by the actors fail to lift this beyond mediocre, and I guess it's still the story that counts first.

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