Saturday, March 17, 2012

Oscar Pandering Season Comes Early With Pride And Glory This Year's Latest Police Epic.

The Good: Acting
The Bad: BOOM MIKE!, Stale plot, Nonsensical character elements, Obvious stereotypes.
The Basics: Predictable, obvious and riddled with problems a first-year film student knows to avoid, Pride And Glory flops when it could have coasted by as average.

This is entirely a retro-review. Written from an advanced screening back in 2008, I was floored when the film – days before it was set to be released – was plagued with technical problems. As I did not enjoy the movie, I have not since gone back to re-view it. So, I opted to keep the original language – all of it – for the transfer of the review to my blog. Enjoy!

Usually, right before the Oscar nominations are released, there will be a rush of movies put out that are the qualitative best films the studio feels they have to offer. These are the movies with the big stars doing dramatic things and trying to impress the nominating committees to win the big awards. This season is usually later in the year and it never fails to amuse me how most of the Summer Blockbusters are almost always automatically disqualified from the running simply because they arrive outside the rather short memory span of the nominators.

I mention this as preface to my review of Pride And Glory because as part of the drive to get nominated for Oscars, there is usually at least one big police epic and this year, it certainly appears that this is trying to fill that niche. Let's face it, Edward Norton was not going to be nominated for any acting awards for The Incredible Hulk (reviewed here!). So, he's here with Collin Farrell doing their best to prove their acting worth to get the nominations both they and the film want. It's a bit early, but Pride And Glory has all of the elements that nominators seem to look for when it comes to considering people and films for nominations.

Ray, Francis, and Jimmy are three brothers (Jimmy is a brother-in-law) working in the NYPD under their father, Francis Sr. when four officers go into a drug kingpin's apartment and are shot and killed. Francis Sr. begs Ray to come off Missing Persons and spearhead the investigation, an investigation that quickly becomes a hunt of Angel Tezo, the drug lord whose apartment was being raided when the officers were killed. Ray enters the investigation to do right and put to rest the demons of his past and finding Tezo and avenging the deaths of the officers seems a reasonable way to do that.

Jimmy has his own reasons for wanting to find Tezo; as part of a quartet of corrupt cops, Jimmy and his three partners dispose of Tezo's getaway car and mull over the deal they have made with a rival druglord to move product on their own. In the process of both the law and the lawless law officers hunting Tezo, there is another shooting while three officers look into a misparked car. As Ray's investigation progresses, it gets him closer to Jimmy's corruption and Francis Junior's complicity and puts his own life in serious jeopardy.

I did not set out to pan Pride And Glory. Indeed, I like a good cop story as much as virtually every other American. Pride And Glory started out as a pathetically average cop story. The allegiances were known early on, so like recent Best Picture winner The Departed (reviewed here!), this is more a story about the process of one protagonist getting to the place the audience is from the second scene. We're watching Ray piece together everything to get to Jimmy's corruption while we watch Jimmy ordering him men to do heinous things.

Why, then, is Pride And Glory rated so lowly by me and I am baffled by the praise heaped upon it by the "professional" reviewers? Well, it's pretty obvious when you see the movie, at least the print I saw tonight. The potential weakness of seeing a movie through the studio at premiere screenings is that when they learn of a problem a few days before the wide release of a film, they are sometimes able to fix it. In the case of Pride And Glory, they've got a lot of work to do before this Friday. Why?

The boom is visible. A lot. In key scenes, the microphone is seen bopping around at the top of the screen. It's not a subtle thing, either; it moves, it shakes, it's there. It's there and the first time I noticed it, I was surprised, made a note and brushed it off. By its tenth appearance, I was thinking a boom operator and an editor ought to be fired. In key scenes where emotional and crucial dialogue is being given, all eyes in the theater were drawn to the moving boom and mike and people began laughing. Sadly, the most fun we had tonight at Pride And Glory was not, in fact, the engaging story (it wasn't), but rather "spot the mike!" It is ridiculous that any prints went out like this and if it's not fixed, anyone who rates this five stars was simply not paying attention. I estimate at tonight's showing the boom and/or microphone was visible in approximately 10% of the shots. That's pathetic and director Gavin O'Connor should be mortified that anyone saw the movie looking as shabby as it did.

Then again, director and co-writer O'Connor has enough to be mortified about as far as the script goes (though there he can share the blame with co-writer Joe Carnahan) to be sweating the crappy editing of his movie. O'Connor and Carnahan ask the viewer to swallow one too many ridiculous conceits and rather than go through the entire laundry list of them, I'm just going to jump to the most grievous. These two writers ask the viewer to believe that one honorable cop and one mostly-good career cop whose dying wife begs him to be a man and do the right thing would let their sister go to bed the night they become certain their brother-in-law is a murderous creep with that man. Come ON! But Francis Jr. decides to take a night to sleep on it, AFTER Jimmy is pretty much outed by Ray. So, in addition to being two startlingly lousy cops, Ray and Francis Jr. pretty much fall down as being complete losers when it comes to being a brother or husband.

This is not a nitpicky thing. I mean, you don't even have to like your sister all that much to not want her in bed with a murderer who frames you!

Pride And Glory is filled with a lot of swearing (which helps us know right off the bat who the bad guys are), a requisite amount of blood and all sorts of brutality. Jimmy is not a nice guy and throughout the movie, as his agendas become more and more clear, he and his associates do what they feel they need to in order to stay one step ahead of Ray. The problem here, though, comes near the resolution when character is sacrificed for yet another conceit; the fistfight between two cops.

In other words, if you've seen it in a police drama before, it's in Pride And Glory. In fact, there is little in the way of the title attributes in the film: no one seems particularly proud of being a police officer in this and there is certainly no glory in it either. What there is is a boom mike, hovering dangerously low in oh so many frames, eliminating a whole lot of credibility from the movie. There is also a weird editing technique in the police funeral; a color shift that makes the American flag appear to have green stripes and I'm not sure what the point of that was, to be honest.

I was quite glad I took Spanish back in high school as there are no subtitles in the scenes where Ray interrogates Spanish-speaking witnesses. Finally, Ray's broken marriage kills time that did not need to be there. While watching Pride And Glory, I was detached from it enough to realize that the allusions to Ray's soon-to-be ex-wife worked equally well without the scene and the shot that were in the film that showed her.

This leaves one asking what did Pride And Glory do right? Well, the Tierney family Christmas dinner has a pretty decent and realistic family dynamic. Sure, Francis Sr. is an aging police administrator and therefore something of a lush, but when he drunkenly talks about his children, it makes quite clear the order of the kids and how they ended up the way they did. Even seeing the way Francis Sr. treats his wife explains why Megan would be with Jimmy.

What Pride And Glory does have is the acting, though the billing is way off. Collin Farrell gets top billing and I'm unsure why; his performance is pretty straightforward and remarkably monolithic. Actually, he's doing a pretty decent resurrection of Bullseye, his character from Daredevil (reviewed here!), though slightly less over-the-top . . . for the most part.

I do understand why Noah Emmerich is given billing well below Farrell; he's not a draw. He is, however, an impressive actor, at least in the role of Francis Jr. If he's not nominated for Best Supporting Actor, the nominators seriously missed their mark. Emmerich has a great physical sense to him that allows him to telegraph his character's emotions perfectly, especially in the film's final scenes when he plays Junior with real resolve.

But it is Edward Norton who carries much of Pride And Glory and while his character is disturbingly conflicted at points, Norton sells him well. Norton is able to play both low-key and intense and the moment he begins to portray Ray as a detective piecing things together, he has complete credibility. In other words, when Ray begins asking questions and deducing things, Norton seems completely like a detective without any hint of any of his lesser roles in his portrayal of Ray.

On DVD, many of the technical faults are fixed, but there are still the huge character problems in the film that make it difficult to watch and respect. There is a commentary track and behind-the-scenes featurettes, none of which add anything of significance to the film.

But ultimately, Pride And Glory is a movie that needs some serious fixes and it should not be out in the marketplace in its current state and it certainly doesn't deserve any real consideration in this form either.

For other works with Noah Emmerich, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Super 8
The Walking Dead - Season 1
The Truman Show


For other movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2009, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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