The movie's incoherence almost seems intentional, as if the four writers credited with the story and screenplay didn't flesh out the characters or explain their particular predicaments because, well, they're nothing more than archetypes marching zombie-like to their familiar doom anyhow. And, besides, why even attempt to explain the inexplicable? Why justify the outrageous? It's all so much grim, gritty nonsense — less an homage to NYC cop movies of the 1970s than a Frankenstein monster made out of their spare parts. Even the mustaches look like they were picked up in a vintage store.
First, what is decipherable. Ed Norton stars as Ray Tierney, a good cop whose scar on his left cheek suggests deeper damage caused by a shooting two years ago that's left him working the missing persons' beat — a clear waste of his talents, we're told, even though Tierney seems no more talented than anyone else working a beat on primetime CBS. The chief of Manhattan detectives, who happens to be Ray's pop, Francis Tierney Sr. (Jon Voight), cajoles and guilts his boy into coming out of semiretirement to solve the case of four cops gunned down in a drug dealer's Washington Heights apartment — cops who happened to be under the command of Ray's brother, Francis Jr. (Noah Emmerich) and Ray's brother-in-law, Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell). In the NYPD, as always, everyone's related — even if they all look like brothers from another mother.
Only — holy fucking shit! — it happens that the four cops who were shot to pieces that cold December night (as protocol dictates, the film takes place during Christmas and New Year's) were dirty badges collecting drug money for Jimmy, who was working both sides of the alley to make ends meet. Which is not a spoiler. Far from it. And, of course, Chief Tierney don't wanna know shit about what his son-in-law's up to, which is why he tells his own flesh and blood, Ray, to pin the whole thing on some tangential drug dealer and bury it, boy, just bury it.
By the end of Pride and Glory's first ten minutes, the audience knows precisely who's who and who's up to what and how this is all gonna go down. (Fact is, the movie's two trailers are considerably more coherent and engaging than the final product.) Which leaves 120 more minutes to fill — or three weeks, whichever comes first. (How ironic that a movie filled with police officers should end up feeling like a hostage situation.) To kill time, the filmmakers — including writer Joe Carnahan, maker of such tepid hyperbole as Narc and Smokin' Aces, and director Gavin O'Connor, last heard from re-creating the Miracle on Ice — toss out enough extraneous characters to fill five more movies, none of which would be any more interesting, but might be considerably shorter.
Take, for instance, Francis Jr.'s...wife? Girlfriend? Sister? For a good long while, the audience actually has no idea who Jennifer Ehle's Abby is, only that her shaved head and pill bottle suggest she's stricken with...well, overacting is all we're certain of at first. Ultimately, she's revealed as the wife, but her inclusion in a few brief scenes as Francis Jr.'s tortured conscience serves only as a needless distraction. Her issues would no doubt prove more interesting than those of her husband, who's actually not a bad cop at all, merely a whiny, ineffective one — which fails to explain why he's so torn up about getting involved in his brother-in-law's bloody mess.
The only thing worse than a familiar movie is a boring one, and Pride and Glory is a stone-cold drag — a muted, drab and utterly joyless retread of territory James Gray covered only last year in his far superior We Own the Night, which at least had the benefit of making a little bit of sense and using actors (Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Robert Duvall) who didn't keep the material at arm's length. We Own the Night, nitty-gritty nonsense to the core, at least had fun making pulp. But there's no vision here, no sense of anything other than going through the motions in order to get a climax straight out of The Warriors. Farrell and Norton's characters could have been played by anyone, and Voight gives fourteen different performances throughout the span of 128 minutes. A better title: Crime and Punishment.