Pride and Glory

Pride and Glory movie poster


Pride and Glo­ry was one of the last New Line Cin­e­ma pro­duc­tions made while still a semi-autonomous com­pa­ny, before being evis­cer­at­ed by par­ent com­pa­ny Warn­er Bros. in 2008. For the mor­bid­ly curi­ous, Van­i­ty Fair recent­ly relat­ed the sad tale in its lat­est Hol­ly­wood issue. Dis­claimer: I worked for New Line Cin­e­ma through its end times, but had absolute­ly noth­ing to do with actu­al­ly mak­ing or mar­ket­ing its movies, and nobody there cared what rank-and-file employ­ees thought about the artis­tic mer­it of their prod­uct any­way.

For still undis­closed rea­sons, Pride and Glo­ry was com­plet­ed in 2006, but sat on the shelf for almost two years. Direc­tor Gavin O’Connor (Tum­ble­weeds) pub­licly blamed New Line (and co-head Bob Shaye in par­tic­u­lar) for bury­ing his movie. Stars Edward Nor­ton and Col­in Far­rel also spoke out about it in the press, clear­ly dis­ap­point­ed but yet more under­stand­ing (per­haps these sea­soned actors were more jad­ed, and unsur­prised by stu­dio machi­na­tions). New Line coun­tered that the slid­ing release date was intend­ed to avoid the lead actors’ com­pet­ing projects from dif­fer­ent stu­dios. It was even­tu­al­ly sched­uled for March 2008, but not actu­al­ly released until late 2008.

Colin Farrel and Ed Norton in Pride and GloryColin’s a bent cop­per

This atten­tion helped it become a minor cause célèbre among online movie afi­ciona­dos that couldn’t resist the bait: a scan­dalous tale of a sup­pressed mas­ter­piece. But the sad truth is that Pride and Glo­ry is a god-awful, depress­ing, point­less mess of a movie. Actu­al­ly, that’s not fair; it’s not poor­ly made from a tech­ni­cal stand­point. Not to go out of my way to defend the stu­dio, but it now seems like­ly there was no actu­al con­spir­a­cy to bury a mis­un­der­stood mas­ter­piece. Per­haps New Line sim­ply couldn’t slot the film into its slate, fig­ure out how to mar­ket it, or was forced to shunt some projects aside dur­ing the stress of the immi­nent destruc­tion of the entire com­pa­ny. Or maybe even, most unlike­ly of all, New Line had the sense to real­ize Pride and Glo­ry just wasn’t a very good movie.

Also con­tribut­ing to the aura of con­tro­ver­sy was the bun­gled film­ing of a police funer­al scene at the actu­al cer­e­mo­ny for New York City offi­cer Eric Her­nan­dez, acci­den­tal­ly killed by friend­ly fire in 2006. The pro­duc­tion report­ed­ly promised the fam­i­ly they would be respect­ful and stay out of their way, but reneged and clum­si­ly intrud­ed on the sen­si­tive affair. Hav­ing seen the com­plet­ed scene, I don’t see any rea­son why it couldn’t have been effec­tive­ly staged with a com­ple­ment of extras in full dress uni­form.

Pride and Glo­ry was writ­ten by broth­ers Gavin and Gre­go­ry O’Connor. As the sons of a police offi­cer, they had unusu­al access to the New York Police Depart­ment. If their film is sup­posed to be a trib­ute to hon­est cops, its cor­rup­tion plot must feel like a slap in the face. The movie’s fic­tion­al cor­rupt cops are whol­ly, utter­ly evil, with no gra­da­tions of char­ac­ter or moti­va­tion. Jim­my Egan (Far­rel) and a clutch of fel­low cops have been skim­ming mon­ey off drug busts for years, and have grad­u­at­ed to mur­der and sell­ing drugs them­selves. Egan’s broth­er-in-law Ray Tier­ney (Nor­ton) finds him­self in a posi­tion where he could turn Egan in. Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters, Tierney’s pop Fran­cis Sr. (John Voight) and broth­er Fran­cis Jr. (Noah Emmerich, broth­er to New Line exec­u­tive Toby Emmerich, and type­cast as a cop after his role in Lit­tle Chil­dren) are also in the force. Fran­cis Jr. also knows about the cor­rup­tion, but doesn’t have the courage to man up. If Ray does the right thing, it will not only tear up his fam­i­ly but the New York Police Depart­ment itself. But events con­spire such that the good guys don’t have to act; three crooked cops self-destruct of their own accord, and the sto­ry reveals itself to the press. Jim­my and Ray are freed to set­tle their per­son­al griev­ances as two stereo­typ­i­cal movie Irish cops ought: fisticuffs in a pub.

John Voight in Pride and GloryCheese it, it’s the fuzz!

I sus­pect O’Connor had pre­ten­sions to mak­ing anoth­er L.A. Con­fi­den­tial, but his result doesn’t mea­sure up to the stan­dards of such a supe­ri­or film noir. Note the super­fi­cial resem­blances: police cor­rup­tion, drugs, fam­i­ly pride. Pride and Glory’s plot only seems com­plex, but is actu­al­ly stu­pid-sim­ple. Expo­si­tion scenes basi­cal­ly lay out the plot quite ear­ly, drain­ing any sense of mys­tery or sus­pense. The dia­logue is pep­pered with a tor­rent of names that are chal­leng­ing for the audi­ence to con­nect with faces, a tech­nique that pro­vides only a super­fi­cial com­plex­i­ty to a sim­ple plot.

The tone is absurd­ly grim and total­ly humor­less, and devoid of any human emo­tion beyond Ray’s grim sense of duty. The clas­sic film noir ele­ment most notably lack­ing in this boy’s club pro­duc­tion is any hint of women or sex. What few women there are in the cast bare­ly fig­ure into the plot. The most sig­nif­i­cant female char­ac­ter is can­cer-strick­en Abby (Jen­nifer Ehle), whose sole pur­pose in the plot seems to be to human­ize hus­band Fran­cis Jr. Pride and Glo­ry utter­ly lacks the sense of verisimil­i­tude of the tele­vi­sion series The Wire, sim­i­lar­ly set in the worlds of inner city drug and police cul­tures. Now is as good a time as any to state that The Dork Report does not apol­o­gize for tak­ing advan­tage of any oppor­tu­ni­ty what­so­ev­er to evan­ge­lize The Wire.

The set­ting is a ver­sion of New York City that may or may not actu­al­ly exist. In fact, there’s an unusu­al dis­claimer before the end cred­its stat­ing its char­ac­ters and events are total­ly fic­tion­al. Obvi­ous­ly, if there was an actu­al case of such mas­sive cor­rup­tion in the NYPD, we’d have heard about it. After the cred­its, there’s yet anoth­er dis­claimer I’ve nev­er seen before, stat­ing that no one con­nect­ed with the pro­duc­tion took any mon­ey to pro­mote the use of tobac­co prod­ucts. This Dork Reporter don’t smoke, and nev­er has, but is offend­ed by the notion that movies are influ­en­tial in this way. Grant­ed, movies are a pow­er­ful art­form, and can affect people’s hearts and minds. The ills of soci­ety are real prob­lems that require com­plex solu­tions, but cen­sor­ing movies is not one of them. It’s a cheap and easy way for right­eous fools to believe they are com­bat­ing a prob­lem. Where’s the cor­re­spond­ing wor­ry that lit­tle kids will watch this movie and be inspired to grow up to be cor­rupt cops?

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