Not-so-breaking news: Cops can be corrupt. More less-than-breaking news: Hollywood has trotted out another lackluster film presenting this "shocking" occurrence.
Some of us already suffered through the recent toss-off Righteous Kill that had us tagging along with Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro through the sordid muck of New York's Not-So-Finest. Now, the City That Never Sleeps coughs up another bad-cop story, this time about two generations of Irish-American police who find family, careers and personal honor ripped apart by an unfolding corruption scandal.
Film-goers will likely be tipped off to the forthcoming mediocrity by the film's cheesy, meaningless title: Pride and Glory. Director Gavin O'Connor co-penned this drama with Joe Carnahan (Smokin' Aces) and they must have had a blast seeing who could toss in the most cop-film clichés.
The opening scene's easy camaraderie -- the extended Tierney and Egan families are enjoying a cop football game -- is interrupted by a 10-13. Four cops down, Washington Heights, looks bad. Sure enough, it's a bloodbath, and the four dead police, from Jimmy Egan's unit, are also under the command of his brother-in-law Francis Tierney Jr. (Noah Emmerich).
To ensure maximum dramatic conflict, veteran cop Francis Tierney Sr. (Jon Voight) insists that his other cop son, Ray (Edward Norton), look into what happened. Even though -- or, especially because -- Ray's still in recovery from some earlier, but not explained, bad-cop business, also up in Washington Heights.
Soon enough Ray discovers a big rotting mess uptown amongst some cheaply characterized thugs (poor, Spanish-speaking, violent) -- and whaddya know, it's also got la policia stamped all over it. Stories start unraveling, bodies pile up, and bad-cop ringleader Egan (Colin Farrell) goes for broke.
Truthfully, most of the first hour is a confusing muddle; the pacing is leaden, and too many details are hazy or disconnected. But if you've seen other cop movies, you can still play along. The film's best scenes are in the middle, when all three brothers lose their footing and engage in a handful of intense head-butting sessions.
One of Farrell's fun acting tricks is his instant switch from enraged to shaggily charming. Here, his Egan is both sentimental and psychotic -- this is a law-enforcement officer who holds a hot iron an inch from a baby's face as a negotiating tactic, then cuddles the wee boy and coos, "He's beautiful."
Norton -- the ice to Farrell's fire -- and Voight, as the boozy, go-along-to-get-along vet, are fine, but the script gives them little to do but intone over-used cop-shop talk. (Francis Sr.: "We protect our own"; Ray: "I've done your kind of loyalty, pop, and it's cost me too much.") Emmerich, the only character who actually undergoes a change, turns in a flat performance.
And so goes the eternal cop-movie triangle of conflicting loyalties: fellow officers, family and cash. Cue funereal bagpipes, moping in Irish taverns and the grilling by Internal Affairs. And, as if O'Connor can't shoehorn in enough clichés, he stages this whole mess during Christmas week, so every scene of domestic betrayal and bloody violence is juiced with the cheery twinkle of colored holiday lights. Oh, the humanity.