By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
Pride and Glory is a long, lumbering cliche, a crime drama centered on a proud family of honorable policemen and an in-law breaking the rules.
Director/co-writer Gavin O'Connor strains mightily to disguise the familiarity with a puzzling order of scenes, Brooklyn and Spanish accents begging for subtitles and cinematographer Declan Quinn's persistent jitter-cam. I believe the first time the camera is locked down it's aimed at a character on a rocking boat.
There's also a needless amount of personal angst, as if the crime at hand — the murder of four NYPD officers — isn't wrenching enough. Tender scenes involving one cop's impending divorce, another's cancer-stricken wife and the clan's Christmas dinner are jarring contrasts to brutal interrogations, sudden executions and a violent climax that must be seen to not be believed.
Pride and Glory has been shelved for nearly two years, presumably exhumed now to counterprogram against the G-rated High School Musical 3. Or maybe because Edward Norton is hot again after The Incredible Hulk (which coincidentally releases on home video this week).
You can't identify cops, crooks and crooked cops without a scorecard for much of O'Connor's movie. That's odd, considering O'Connor drops an early scene implicating Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), the leader of a group of cocaine-snorting officers searching for their colleagues' killer. It's fine for Jimmy to continue hiding his guilt from the department but not the audience, which keeps Pride and Glory spinning its patrol-car wheels.
Jimmy is married to the daughter of Francis Tierney Sr. (Jon Voight), the obligatory old-school guardian most recently played by Robert Duvall in We Own the Night. Tierney's son, Ray (Norton), is a former narcotics investigator bearing a gunshot scar on his cheek after a bust went wrong. Ray is reluctant to return to duty, but Dad believes his knowledge of the streets will lead to the cop killers' arrest.
Farrell is suitably coiled, Norton is alertly weary and Voight appropriately grim. But the film's best performance comes from underrated Noah Emmerich (the neighborhood crime-watcher in Little Children). He plays the eldest Tierney brother, Francis Jr., the department captain agonizing over the loss of his men, with escalating concern that another officer may have assisted in the slayings.
He's right, of course. We know it far too long before he does, although motives are maddeningly vague. O'Connor's detours into interpersonal dramas going nowhere are attempts to make viewers forget the obvious for an overlong running time. Some action scenes crackle with tension while others — like Jimmy threatening a baby with a hot iron to get its father to talk — needlessly shock. Pride and Glory progressively gets grim and grimmer, until that howler ending.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.