Pride and Glory

It’s time to set things straight about Gavin O’Connor‘s Pride and Glory. I saw it last night, and as far as I’m concerned it’s the absolute opposite of a “problem movie” despite last fall’s diseased, head-scratching decision by New Line’s Bob Shaye not to release it in 2008. That may change.

Edward Norton in Pride and Glory

The issue was aired last February when O’Connor complained to Variety‘s Michael Fleming that New Line’s honcho Robert Shaye had done obvious harm to his film by pulling the plug on a 3.14.08 release date and bumping it into 2009.
Costar Colin Farrell elaborated during an In Bruges junket interview when he said “there’s this rumor going around that [Pride and Glory has been bumped] because it’s a mess or it’s a really bad film. I feel the need to kind of speak up, not from my own end but genuinely for Gavin O’Connor because he wrote and directed it. It’s just a really really strong piece, but I think New Line lost the bollocks on The Golden Compass…and they literally don’t have enough money to market things.”
Having finally seen O’Connor’s film, I can say with authority that Shaye’s decision was cowardly and pathetic. In this context, he was just as much of a criminal as the murdering, drug-dealing cops in the movie. Pride and Glory isn’t letter perfect from top to bottom, but it’s much, much better than I thought it would be, and the truth is that I drove home last night feeling close to delighted. If you’re a distributor, you don’t yank movies like this. You need to show some moxie and push them as best you can because quality wills out, damn it, and demands a day in the sun.

This thing, I swear, has a carefully parsed intensity that woke me out of my usual Wednesday-night blahs. Most of it seems to happen in Brooklyn or Queens with a little Manhattan thrown in. It’s wild and manic and surging with energy and sometimes mad as a loon (but rightly so, given the dirty-borough-cops storyline), and it really left me open-mouthed at times. I get that way when confronted by fierce but subtle acting, and especially when it’s all beautifully shot and swirled together in a big fat energy milkshake.
About halfway into the screening it hit me that the performances reach and even surpass, at times, the level of delivery in Michael Mann‘s Heat. Seriously. Power and Glory is an exceptional high-throttle thing that absolutely needs to see the light of day this year. Word around the campfire is that with New Line now reduced to a small production company status, Picturehouse or Warner Independent or perhaps Warner Bros. itself may acquire it and do just that.
The plot and the milieu are familiar, but it’s the singer, not the song. Emotionally complex and yet clear-headed with a carefully worked-out story, it’s basically about working-class ethics and morality under pressure and under fire. Like with James Gray‘s We Own The Night, Pride and Glory is about a big blue-collar family of cops, this time called the Tierneys. It’s primarily about having to struggle with crime and corruption within their own ranks.

It’s also similar to (though much better than) David Ayer‘s Street Kings, which dealt with a gang of rogue cops involved in drug dealing and all the attendant sins.
The conflict comes when Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) investigates a case that involving the murder of four policemen, and eventually leads to a dirty-cop scandal involving his brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell). The third brother, a go-alonger named Francis Jr., is played by Noah Emmerich. Their father, Francis Sr., a king of rationalization no matter the crime or the level of stink, is played by Jon Voight.
The script apparently began with an original by Robert Hopes, and then a rewrite collaboration between O’Connor and his brother Greg, and then another rewrite by Joe Carnahan. I just wish it wasn’t titled Pride and Glory, which unfortunately suggests an emotionally simplistic sports saga.
The gifted O’Connor (Miracle, Tumbleweeds) has put together something very vulnerable, soulful and alive-in-the-moment. Pride and Glory is a cup-runneth- over drama in that intensity rules and emotions are often (but not always) fully cranked. All I know is that I was driven half-mad with exasperation as I sat through similar stuff in We Own The Night, but I felt aroused and lifted during last night’s showing. This is not just another crazy-sick-cops movie. Melodrama is melodrama and the form is the form, but special things happen when exceptional craft and restraint are brought to bear.

Noah Emmmerich, Norton in Pride and Glory

I don’t know when I started to realize that P&G was a few cuts above, but it was early on. It started with the combination of Declan Quinn‘s darting hand-held photography, the knockout editing by Lisa Zeno Chrugin and John Gilroy, and the acting…my God! We’re not talking just two or three standouts but several brave, refined, super-intimate performances.
Norton is as good here as he was in The 25th Hour, and by my standards that’s as good as it gets. Farrell has now hit three homers in a row playing tragic, troubled losers — in O’Connor’s film, Martin McDonagh‘s In Bruges and Woody Allen‘s Cassandra’s Dream. Emmerich is as good here as I’ve ever seen him. John Ortiz (who played Russell Crowe‘s corrupt detective partner in American Gangster) is also special, and so are Frank Grillo, Manny Perez, Jennifer Ehle (whose head is shaved in this thing — what’s that about?), Wayne Duvall, Ramon Rodriguez, Carmen Ejogo, Shea Wigham.
Some IMDB guy wrote a few months ago that Pride and Glory “is the kind of American movie you don’t see anymore, a throwback to the big themes and dramatic tone of the 1950s, when Elia Kazan was making movies like East of Eden and On the Waterfront and Arthur Miller was writing plays like Death of a Salesman and All My Sons.
“Family, honor, corruption, right and wrong, fathers and sons–these are the kinds of issues that director/co-writer Gavin O’Connor is taking on, and in doing so he’s made a timeless film. Sincere without being sentimental (much like Miracle, O’Connor’s last effort) and familiar and original at the same time, this is a muscular, old-school American film, with big themes splashed on a big canvas. In the Age of Irony, these are the kinds of movies you rarely see anymore.”

  • Jamieson

    Really looking forward to seeing this film. Hopefully everything gets sorted out quickly and it gets a fair shake theatrically. Nice piece, Jeff.

  • Dan Revill

    Thanks for the writeup Jeff. Really looking forward to it now. Hopefully we see it sometime this year.
    25th Hour is definitely my favorite performance of Norton’s, so to hear he’s as good here warms the cockles of my heart.

  • MilkMan

    Norton & Emmerich, jowl to jowl, this makes me think of something I was told in acting class, back when I was 18, when acting to me meant nothing more than an occasion to scream and throw shit: Fight or Fuck. Yes, that’s what my teacher said every time I would get in someone’s face. Fight or Fuck. And it took me a long time to figure out what she was saying. Men only get that close to each other in movies. Real behavior, honest behavior, dictates that if you get that close to another person, you better get ready to do one of two things. But in the movies, neither usually happens. It would be nice if the above picture were a prelude to Norton and Emmerich kissing each other, tongues twisting, slobber running down their pockmarked chins, but I know it’s not. More tough guy posturing, and I don’t buy it from Norton, and I sure as hell don’t but it from Farrell, who comes across to me as nothing more than a world-class Satyr. I’m kind of over gritty cop movies. Same with hit man movies.

  • actionman

    Can’t wait to see this. The cop genre is one of my favorites and this sounds like a kick-ass entry. Really enjoyed Miracle but this sounds like a major step-up for Gavin O’Connor.
    And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Colin Farrell is the most consistently underrated actor working today. His performances in Miami Vice, The New World, In Bruges, and Ask the Dust, are all exceptional. He was also pretty terrific in Phone Booth, and while he was ultimately mis-cast in Alexander, you can’t say that he didn’t give it his all in that film. Anxious to see Cassandra’s Dream.
    I hope this film sees the light of day this year and that whoever releases it throws some marketing-muscle behind it.

  • the king

    I too doze at the thought of another Hitman movie. But I do find myself tweeked a little about an hardcore urban drama with Norton. He could do no wrong in the late nineties.
    Such high hopes … gone. Now it’s been10 years since American History X and nine since Fight Club.
    He hasn’t done one quality flick in the new millenium. Sigh….

  • Jeffrey Kunze

    Really happy/delighted/relieved to hear that Jeff liked this.
    Ed Norton is such a great actor and it’s upsetting to hear the problems he can sometimes cause, for good reason or not.
    Colin Farrell is also really starting to come into his own and I’m glad for him. He seems to know how to pick the right movies thst play to his suits (or maybe he’s got a great agent).
    I really wish they would release this when the director’s approval on the final cut. Early Fall sounds perfect.
    That only films I’ve seen so far this year in theaters have been Cloverfield (dissapointed) and Funny Games (interesting). I’m really picky when it comes to wasting money at the theater. But if Pride and Glory were to come out this weekend, I’d drag my friends to go see it with me in an instant.

  • Tom Logan

    The enthusiasm in this review was really heartfelt and got the ole blood pumping,i wanted to see it before but now i’m prepared to break into New Line and steal the damn thing.(if that does coincidentally happen,it wasn’t me i was returning videotapes)
    Was there a particular reason for this showing ie. distribution?

  • Rich S.

    Too bad the good vibes for Norton are only likely to last until the second week of June.
    Hasn’t New Line virtually ceased to exist anyway?

  • wayne76

    Shouldn’t Norton be throwing his weight around for the good of THIS movie, instead of the application of lipstick to pig that he’s working on now?

  • George Prager

    If it was “based on a true story” (and then fictionalized to the point where it barely resembled the story it was based on–and took place in the 70s, so you could have some moldy old Soul tunes on the soundtrack and Colin Farrell with sideburns–it would’ve been released already. Self-contained movies with self-contained stories aren’t popular right now. They don’t sell a lifestyle. You can’t have a PRIDE AND GLORY boutique at Macy’s.

  • Pelham123

    I’ll second what Actionman wrote and also say Colin Farrell was great in “Cassandra’s Dreams”. I don’t understand the hate some hold for him. As Actionman noted, he’s done some first-rate work. After reading Jeff’s write up I hope this movie somehow makes it to the big screen. The fact that the script was co-written by Joe Carnahan is an added bonus. For any James Ellroy fans out there, you should try and get a hold of Joe & Matthew Carnahan’s script for “White Jazz”. It’s 100% pure gonzo Ellroy.

  • JVD

    When Farrell plays to his strengths — morally conflicted characters — he usually shines. I’ve always thought that despite the size of the role, his performance in “Minority Report” is quite good and one of the reasons the film works. Plus, he more than holds his own against Tom Cruise.
    Speaking of Cruise, the release date shuffle of “Pride and Glory” gives me some hope that a similar thing is going on with “Valkyrie” — that it’s a solid project that needs a little fine-tuning and the right release date to make a good run at the box office.

  • Edward

    Great story MilkMan, my graduate acting teacher’s mantra was, “I don’t fucking believe it, do it again.” She would yell it out during performances or at students who were performing in their final graduate scenes.
    We loved and feared her.

  • Josh Massey

    So New Line would have better served the movie by shoving it out this month in a handful of theaters with no marketing?

  • rr3333

    I hope its better than ‘We Own The Night’. That film had potential, but it didnt come close to great.

  • Aladdin Sane

    Thanks for the writeup Jeff. Really looking forward to it now. Hopefully we see it sometime this year.
    25th Hour is definitely my favorite performance of Norton’s, so to hear he’s as good here warms the cockles of my heart.

  • Jeffrey Kunze

    I was really hooked by the first 20 minutes or so of “We Own The Night”. Nice title sequence too.
    Then the film kind of took the beaten path. I don’t understand why everyone was raving so much about that car chase scene.
    I think I liked Gray’s The Yards a little better. So weird that both Phoenix and Walberg were in that too. How often does that happen with a director not filming sequels?
    Is Little Odessa any good?

  • actionman

    Phoenix just wrapped a third film with James Gray so they obviously love working with each other.
    We Own the Night wasn’t brilliant by any stretch but I found it to be very enjoyable, very stylish, and I appreciated the gritty 80’s atmosphere.
    I think the car-chase-in-the-rain was pretty f’ing brilliant to be honest. The drug-den raid was sick and the smoky finale in the weeds was an inspired choice of setting.
    I do think that The Yards is a better film than We Own the Night, and Little Odessa is a better than average debut.

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  • p.Vice

    These are the kind of movies you rarely see anymore because honor, corruption, and right & wrong mean jack shit to about 95% of our country’s population.
    I wouldn’t buy that Michael Mann comparison for a dollar. Especially since Mann can’t get Mann-quality performances out of his actors anymore, much less Gavin O’Connor.

  • JosephB

    John Ortiz is in it? Count me in. This guy is such a terrific character actor, leading all the way back to his incredibly funny performance as a naive cop on Denis Leary’s “The Job”. His acting presence even forced me to see “Take the Lead” and “El Cantante” in which he gave supporting roles.

  • Spicer

    Miracle may be the best sports movie of the past 10 years, with a great, great performance by Kurt Russell.

  • moorish

    Wish New line would just release this already. Norton in a drama about dirty cops? I am there.
    Jeff – no view on the whole “public statement” from Norton regarding the Incredible Hulk?

  • J. Huff

    Norton makes even mediocre material look good. Watched Down in the Valley about two weeks ago, and while there are some seriously hackneyed elements in the film, Norton delivers a strong performance. What’s so great about Norton is that he is an utterly convincing liar in any variety of ways in his roles, but when there’s a breakthrough with a character, it feels gut-level. Down in the Valley has him playing a deeply flawed and disturbed character in such a way that even when he does some seriously wrong things, you still feel for him. He can create a multi-faceted character like very few working actors today. I think perhaps his biggest problem is that he knows how good he is.

  • Jay T.

    I saw the trailer for this film a long time ago and my instant reaction was, “Gee, looks like a bunch of other movies, but I’ll probably go see it.” Now I definitely will…

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  • mark09

    It’s a very dark and austere film that unfolds at a purposeful but meditative (which absolutely doesn’t mean “slow”) pace, taking its time and saying to the audience, “Don’t worry, this is going somewhere…we’re not jerking around so pay attention to the steps.” Online degree AND Online degree programs AND college degree

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  • dd

    What’s so great about Norton is that he is an utterly convincing liar in any variety of ways in his roles, but when there’s a breakthrough with a character, it feels gut-level. Down in the Valley has him playing a deeply flawed and disturbed character in such a way that even when he does some seriously wrong things, you still feel for him. He can create a multi-faceted character like very few working actors today. I think perhaps his biggest problem is that he knows how good he is.
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