[Screen It]


(2008) (Edward Norton, Colin Farrell) (R)

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Drama: After the murder of four cops, a detective's investigation leads to a disturbing discovery involving his brother and brother-in-law, both fellow police officers.
For the Tierney family of New York, being a cop is in their blood. There's police chief Francis Tierney, Sr. (JON VOIGHT) and his son Francis Tierney, Jr. (NOAH EMMERICH) who leads a division but must contend with the fact that his wife, Abby (JENNIFER EHLE), is dying of cancer. Then there's his brother Ray (EDWARD NORTON) who was a narc for 8 years before a past incident ruined his marriage to Tasha (CARMEN EJOGO) and took him off the streets to work in the missing persons department. Meanwhile, his sister Megan (LAKE BELL) is married to Jimmy Egan (COLIN FARRELL) who works directly for Francis Jr.

When four of Jimmy's fellow cops are murdered in an ambush, he and the rest of his team, including Ruben Santiago (JOHN ORTIZ), Eddie Carbone (FRANK GRILLO) and Kenny Dugan (SHEA WHIGHAM), want revenge. That is, when they're not shaking down local business owners for cash. Meanwhile, Francis Sr. wants Ray to join the task force to investigate the murders. Ray reluctantly agrees, and his work soon leads to drug dealer Angel Tezo (RAMON RODRIGUEZ).

But when his investigation points out that Jimmy and the others might be involved, Ray must decide what to do, especially since any choice he makes will greatly affect his family.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
As many a comedian before me has stated (not that I'm one of them), stop me if you've heard this one before. You see, there's a family of cops in New York where the dad is the respected, veteran chief of police who... Aw, c'mon, I just started. What's that? Yeah, I know, but can I at least continue until you're certain? Thank you. So that chief of police has some sons, one of which is following in his footsteps, while the other isn't on the up-and-up and...Really? You're positive?

Alright, I'll admit you've probably seen one or two such big city cop family dramas -- okay, probably more than that -- in your lifetime, especially if you were around in the '70s (when such flicks came into popularity) and subsequent decades. Despite a few variations on the familiar theme -- the bad son can be a criminal or just a bad cop and the father may or may not be bad himself -- it's always pretty much the same film where loyalties to the force and/or family come into question as tensions, the law and criminal behavior all collide.

Such is the case, yet again and seemingly for the umpteenth time in "Pride and Glory," a (wait for it) cop drama that's reportedly been sitting around for a while, possibly because a strikingly similar movie -- "We Own the Night" -- came out in 2007. Are the flicks the same? Of course not, as the details are different, but they're close enough to be kissing cousins, and such cinematic inbreeding has pretty much turned this subgenre into a mutant monster that can't be killed.

The symbolic one that will most likely come to mind this time of year is Frankenstein's, what with the various clichés, conventions and hoarily hackneyed prerequisites all roughly sewn together here into an all too familiar sight. Yes, that even includes the "let's put our guns down to duke it out with our fists" finale that was already old and overused decades ago and comes off more like a parody here than anything serious.

Like Boris Karloff's version, it lumbers about with flat feet and a flat head, not exciting and/or novel enough to grab us, nor smart enough to compensate for its stitched together construction. The result is the ultimate "been there, seen that before" experience, occasionally peppered with some ultra violence (real and threatened) thrown in as a desperate measure to spice things up and thus jar the viewer from their stupor (a hot iron and baby bit certainly qualifies for notable luridness).

To be fair, had no such picture and all of those genre conventions existed before, this wouldn't be a half-bad offering. As its strongest selling point, the performances are generally decent, with Edward Norton playing the good cop, Colin Ferrell the bad brother (to be precise, of the in-law variety), and Jon Voight as the literal and/or figurative father figure to both.

Throw in Noah Emmerich as the real brother (existing in the storytelling sea of nebulousness, although his performance is the least convincing); Jennifer Ehle, Carmen Ejogo and Lake Bell as the dying, estranged and concerned wives respectively; Ramon Rodriguez as the requisite villain; and John Ortiz, Frank Grillo and Shea Whigham as other bad cops, and there's certainly enough characters and storylines to fill up the 125-some minute runtime.

The only problem is you simply won't care, and it doesn't help that director Gavin O'Connor -- working from the screenplay he penned with Joe Carnahan -- lets us know pretty much from the get-go that Farrell's character and his close associates are bad. Without that "surprise" (although it's not as if we wouldn't have seen that coming as well, considering it's also been done to death, but at least the filmmakers would have tried), the film just proceeds exactly as we'd expect (including, natch, an official police department funeral, the family holiday meal, yada-yada-yada).

It's been said that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Well, the same apparently applies to the cop family drama sub-genre. While Norton and Farrell give "Pride and Glory" some spark and gravitas with their solid performances, the recycled material is like a Frankenstein bolt through the neck -- it stymies circulation and any attempts at bold twists in any direction, leaving it and the viewer stiff. The film rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed October 20, 2008 / Posted October 24, 2008

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