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Pride and Glory
Historically when a film takes a long time to enter movie theaters from the time it initially went into production, that seems to imply that the studio responsible for the film doesn't have a lot of faith in the film. Now, while the film itself starting shooting back in February of 2006, it wasn't released until October of 2008. Yet this doesn't tell the whole story. The film was due to be released in March, but was pushed back (presumably) at New Line's guidance. The filmmakers and stars of the film helped persuade the studio to finally release the picture theatrically, but was it worth the effort?
The screenplay was written and directed by Gavin O'Connor (Miracle), though Narc director Joe Carnahan helped on some drafts, and according to the making-of documentary on the disc, Ed Norton (The Incredible Hulk) and Noah Emmerich (Little Children) pitched in and wrote several scenes for the film during production, as the cast and crew went into production with an unfinished script. Norton and Emmerich play Ray and Francis Tierney respectively, brothers who work for the New York Police Department. Their father Francis Sr. (Jon Voight, Heat) is a high-ranking member of the NYPD, and his daughter is married to Jimmy (Colin Farrell, The Recruit), a NYPD sergeant who works under Francis Jr. in the precinct. On one tragic night, four members of the precinct are ambushed by a drug dealer, and Francis Sr. asks Ray to be part of the task force investigating the murders. Ray is reluctant to do so initially, as the reasons we find out later include the police force's reticence to do whatever possible to protect their own, behind the long blue line. Ray's investigation shows that Jimmy not only had a crew of similarly corrupt cops, but they also were under the influence of some of the area's criminal elements, and this was done with Jimmy's slightly approving eye. Francis Jr. has his own problems to deal with, as his wife Abby (Jennifer Ehle, Sunshine) is suffering from cancer and near death, and his time has been taken up with her, and not so much involved with how dirty Jimmy has become. When Ray's investigation gets closer to the drug dealer, Angel Tezo (Ramon Rodriguez), he discovers just how dirty Jimmy is.
What particularly impressed me over the first half of the film was how real it seemed to be. The one thing that we know definitively is that Jimmy, while being a nice guy who will do anything for those under him, appears to be involved with Tezo in some way, and his role in the murders itself remains to be seen. But the Tierneys oozed a degree of believability that I hadn't seen in New York cop dramas since the days of Michael Cimino in Year of the Dragon or any of the Sidney Lumet films. Voight is of course the patriarch, one of the sons is in self-imposed exile while the other is groomed for success, and the son-in-law is also one of NYPD's finest. In a fascinating, boozy and slightly emotional speech at Christmas dinner, Voight seems to echo a type of modest pride at his family. Norton's resistance to being part of the task force, citing an incident at "Mott Haven," almost requires no explanation. The stars perform their roles so well that backstory doesn't need to be spelled out. In fact, Mott Haven is mentioned several times before the viewer finds out more about the details of it and by that point, it's hardly necessary. The film is gritty and raw, and their work is a byproduct of the how the story is told initially.
All the effusive praise aside, Pride and Glory seems to lose its way in the latter half of the film. The film turns on a key scene where Ray finds Tezo, but Jimmy has beaten him there. Things start to spiral out of hand from there, as Ray decides to finally stand up against the corruption he sees, both within the force and his own family. Sure, it's admirable and a little predictable, but he eventually runs into Jimmy again, and the result of this is an event that's unbelievable and less than realistic, to put it mildly. Jimmy's plot arc continues with a fate that Norton later mentions as "Greek" in terms of character fate, which I can see, but it's really on the Do The Right Thing tip, and cheapens the film. That's one of the problems on the film, but the other seems to be something that couldn't be avoided, and that's the time spent on the storylines of the children. The scenes with Francis Jr. and his wife have to be in there, and Emmerich brings a surprising poignancy to those. Moreover, his performance, combining stress and helplessness, all the while struggling with what to do with his wife, is quite good, and the best of the film. Ray's scenes surrounding his home life feel a little forced at times, and Jimmy's role as family man and crooked cop veer towards the slightly unrealistic. The problem that O'Connor might have had is that all of those scenes are required to help establish what the characters will do in the third act, and I've already said the ending stinks. Lumet's films would have had an ending that would have been more modest and even logical, despite the circumstances before it. O'Connor's more grandiose ending when put together with the character development feels tacked on. As it turns out it pretty much was a last-minute idea, so the question becomes why bother with shooting the film in the first place?
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented in 1.85:1 1080p high definition widescreen, Declan Quinn's cinematography keeps the action in the frame with a slightly handheld feel, and the film looks gritty and raw as a result. The end result on Blu-ray reflects that to some degree, though in high definition it's hardly inspiring. Using the VC-1 codec, film grain is present to the point where it's distracting in some sequences, and it some of the tighter shots (like when Ray and Jimmy are in the hospital right after responding to the officer down call), scene's where you'd expect a lot of facial detail lack almost all of it, and in one later shot where Ray visits his soon-to-be ex-wife, there might have been some light edge enhancement. This isn't a colorful film by any means and most everything occurs at night or under overcast skies, but the blacks lose a little on the contrast as well. A disappointing effort from New Line/Warner.
Hey, there's at least a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track on the film, so you figure that's got to be decent, right? Well, dialogue tends to waver from the center channel without any intentional panning to the other front channels, and most of the time the dialogue is really soft. So when, say Tezo's lieutenant comes to town and has dinner with his family, when Jimmy and his crew come busting through the door and fire their gun at the innocents, it's startling and a little annoying, to be honest. The "action" sequences lack in any effective directional effects and aren't as immersive as I would expect, save for the opening sequence when Ray walks to the football game. At least the subwoofer engages when it has to, but it just doesn't get a lot of work in.
Aside from a digital copy of the film, the only other extra is the feature-length "Source of Pride" (1:07:07), which serves as the making-of look at the film. O'Connor periodically does video diary entries for the piece which are fascinating. He talks about his inspiration for the film, the problems he encountered both before and during production, his slight lament at not being able to attend his grandmother's death because production was still going on, and working with the demanding Norton. And by demanding, it's clear that Norton has a passion for the project and wants things to be as genuine as possible; the discussions he has with O'Connor get heated occasionally, as do O'Connor's discussions with Emmerich, but it's all with the intent of getting the best possible film done. Hair and makeup test footage is shown, script read-throughs are filmed, and some of the cast (save for Farrell) discuss their time on the film. As it turns out, Voight was a late replacement for Nick Nolte who dropped out due to surgery, and Voight discusses where he was coming on and what he thought of the cast. The NYPD technical advisors take the supporting actors on a ride along, and during a call that the tech advisor answers (with the actors in the car), the cops pull them over, guns drawn, most of this captured on film. Casting sessions are filmed, along with those who filled the roles of Tezo and others. It's an excellent look at the production and helps make you see what O'Connor and many others had to deal with.
Pride and Glory might have the label of being predictable like every other film surrounding the NYPD and/or corruption, but at least it's execution in the first half isn't too shabby. It's that last half, particularly the ending, which leaves me soured on the whole thing. The performances aren't bad, so there's that, but technically this is a disappointing disc, and the making-of piece is good, but not good enough to actually purchase. If you like any of these actors I'd recommend giving this a perusal nonetheless.