When it comes to writing a screenplay, you have to be very careful. Sounds obvious, right? It should, it is one of those basic things that you have to think about prior to putting pen to paper, quill to scroll, or finger to keyboard.
This is especially true if you decide you want to create something new within a well established genre. More often than not the final product is mediocre at best, retreading the same things that have come before it. The romantic comedy is probably the most guilty of retreading what has come before; just look at recent offerings — they all tell the same sort of story with little invention. It is, more or less, a stagnant genre. That is not to say all of the films are bad — some are quite entertaining. There is just little innovation in them.
Possibly the next genre in the stagnating lineup is the cop drama. So many of these films look and feel just like everything else. Pride and Glory is an apple that doesn't fall very far from the tree in terms of innovation. If you are looking for a movie that pushes the boundaries of the genre, this is not going to fill that hole. However, while this does not really bring anything new to the table it does not present a problem in terms of how successful the film is. The thing that you need to realize is that not every film can revolutionize its genre. Not every film is going to have the impact of a Godfather or Star Wars. While that is true, we cannot hold it against films that are solid examples of their genre and while Pride and Glory may throw everything but the kitchen sink into its tale, it does so with an intelligence and intensity that kept me into the film until the final moments, even though it was pretty easy to see how it was going to turn out.
Pride and Glory has everything you need for a cop drama. Drug deals gone sideways, corruption among the cops, brothers (relatives at least) on opposite sides of the same coin, an alcoholic father and superior officer, marriages on the rocks, and probably a few more that I am forgetting. The bottom line is that the movie is overloaded with plot points and relationship conflicts and in the hands of someone else it likely would have collapsed under its own weight. Fortunately, the creative team is headed by those with experience in the field of making a solid genre film. Leading the charge is director Gavin O'Connor, who previously displayed an ability to direct a solid, entertaining film in the all too familiar inspirational sports drama Miracle. Also on board is co-screenwriter Joe Carnahan, who previously wrote the cop drama Narc, as well as the over-the-top crime film Smokin' Aces. While neither one is an auteur level talent, they both know how to make a solid film with recognizable pieces.
The story opens at a football game where the NYPD team is taking on the FDNY team. It is coming down to the final moments with the game hinging on one final play. Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell) is on the field leading the charge, while Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) is watching from the sidelines. As the game ends a call comes in reporting shots fired and officers down. Ray and his brother Francis (Noah Emmerich) respond, with Jimmy not far behind. They discover a bloodbath, cops dead, bad guys dead, and a man on the run.
What follows is an investigation into why these particular cops were there, where the shooter went, and just what implications are leveled against this particular precinct. Ray is on the task force and the more he digs, the more dirt is turned up that begins to point towards Jimmy. Meanwhile, there are issues at home with Francis' wife, who is dying of cancer, as well as Jimmy's double dealings with a local drug dealer.
Pride and Glory is briskly paced. There is always some sort of forward motion, making the more than two hour film fly by in no time at all. Each piece of the puzzle fits nicely into the big picture. The biggest problem is that for all the positive build-up, the thrills, the flaring of emotions, and the overall excitement as this tale of corruption unfolds is the way it all ends. The ending is such a lackluster affair as to render all of the build-up moot. Now, I really enjoyed everything leading up, but from the scene in the bar (you'll know the one) on it declines into sub-mediocre levels in shocking speed.
Fortunately, the ending does not ruin all that went on before it. The directing is fine, the script is polished until the end, and the acting is first rate. It is with the acting where everything really comes to life. Edward Norton and Colin Farrell create a pair of charismatic characters whose lives are about to boil over at any moment. Their personalities are fiery and the consequences resulting their decisions are dire, all adding up to performances that you cannot look away from.
Bottom line. No, this is not an original cop drama, but it is one that is superbly crafted. The script is tight, performances strong, and it will keep you interested until that lackluster conclusion. I have to say that this is well worth your time seeing on the big screen.