Monday, February 02, 2009

Pride and Glory: Grade A

Pride and Glory (2008)
Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, John Voight, Noah Emmerich, John Ortiz; Co-writer and director Gavin O’Connor.

This is a traditional corrupt cops movie without anything new to say, but the acting is outstanding, making the drama extremely intense. Anything with Colin Farrell is going to be intense anyway, but opposite Edward Norton, the movie just sizzles. Kudos to the casting director on this one. Actually there are outstanding performances in many secondary roles as well, including Emmerich and Ortiz.

Norton is persuaded by his father (Voight), a retired NYPD chief, to transfer out of “missing persons” to find the guy who shot four cops in a drug bust gone bad. We quickly find out, but Norton doesn’t, that his brother in law, Farrell, heads a cabal of corrupt cops involved in extortion and drugs. They’re after the shooter because they want the drug money back. Several well-dramatized and well-acted scenes show the bad cops brutally forcing information out of street informants. Eventually Norton discovers there is a dirty cop inside the case. His father wants him to suppress the information, “for the good of the force,” and we learn that years ago, his father had persuaded him to lie to a grand jury, a decision he regrets.

As he cautiously pursues doing the right thing, Norton edges closer to the inevitable confrontation with Farrell. Unfortunately, right at the end, the movie goes south, and instead of busting Farrell in the normal way, both remove their weapons and have a juvenile fistfight that proves nothing. Not only is that stupid and out of character, but the whole tone of the photography and direction changes in the final act, so one suspects this was not the original ending. It is easy to visualize a very dark ending with Norton getting the shaft and the evildoers getting off. That would have made a terrifically noir morality tale, but apparently some producer decided that goodness must reign so we get this very weak ending. Disappointing as that is, the ending was not ruinous, merely diminishing what was almost a pitch-perfect movie.

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