Starring: Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, Jon Voight, Noah Emmerich, Jennifer Ehle, John Ortiz. Rated R.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most
frequently covered song ever written is “Yesterday” by The Beatles, with more
than 3,000 different versions performed by artists including Ray Charles,
Willie Nelson and Marvin Gaye.
It’s a remarkable statistic, though impossible to verify. I
have heard only three versions of “Yesterday,” none as memorable as Paul
McCartney’s original, but they all share the same mournful melody and
melancholy lyrics. Anyone can cover a song, I suppose, though it helps if you
can carry a tune.
It doesn’t hurt to offer some personal insight, a clever new
twist on a familiar formula, but it’s not essential. Take Pride and Glory. There’s
nothing particularly fresh about Gavin
O’Connor’s tale of lawless police mixed up in the New York drug trade, but give
the young director his due. He knows what he’s doing and he knows how to do it.
In other words, he can carry a tune.
Those familiar with movies like The Departed and Internal
Affairs should recognize Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), a
hotheaded cop who sends four fellow officers to their deaths to protect his
partnership with a high-ranking dope dealer. Beneath Jimmy’s boyish smile and
playful Irish charm lurks a sociopath rotting from within, whose only loyalties
rest with his family. And therein lies the problem.
Jimmy is married into a clan of police lifers, including a
brother-in-law, Ray (Edward Norton), who is leading the investigation into the
cop killings. Ray is smart, a straight-arrow type unwilling to lie for the sake
of the fraternal order. When the trail of evidence leads him to Jimmy, Ray is
forced to choose between family, the force and some semblance of integrity.
Pride and Glory
unfolds somewhat predictably, as Jimmy and Ray inch closer to the inevitable
showdown – a bare-knuckles brawl at an Irish pub, of course – that O’Connor and
co-screenwriter Joe Carnahan (Narc,
Smokin’ Aces) set up soon after
the opening credits. It also strains the limits of plausibility, as when Jimmy
and a group of rabid thug cops flaunt their lawlessness so openly it’s a wonder
they elude capture at all.
Yet the movie is otherwise smooth and competently crafted,
an efficient thriller punctuated by startling bursts of violence and nuanced
performances from Norton, whose tough-cop routine masks a sort of cerebral
tenderness, and the ever-reliable Noah Emmerich, on hand as Ray’s hopelessly
conflicted big brother.
If Norton and Emmerich give the movie its heart, Farrell is
the insidious cancer in its soul, and rarely has he seemed more authentic.
Unlike the tortured hit man he played so convincingly in last winter’s In
Bruges, Farrell’s rogue cop is unburdened
by sensitivity. He’s all steely confidence and rage, and even though his
downfall is telegraphed from the start, it’s worth waiting for.