Obviously, Dirty Harry is missed. But his absence has been felt particularly strongly in the past few years, thanks to a deluge of crime dramas in which mopey cops spend more time burying their heads in their hands than cleaning up the streets. It's hard not to wonder what Inspector Harry Callahan would do if he was stuck in a squad car with the likes of mopey Keanu Reeves (Street Kings), mopey Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed), mopey Tommy Lee Jones (No Country for Old Men), mopey Robert De Niro and/or mopey Al Pacino (Righteous Kill), mopey Russell Crowe (American Gangster), mopey Bruce Willis (16 Blocks), and now, mopey Edward Norton and mopey Colin Farrell and mopey Jon Voight and mopey Noah Emmerich (Pride and Glory).
I'm pretty sure Dirty Harry would tell those guys to nut up and do their goddamn jobs already. Sure, a couple of the above movies are pretty great, but I miss the days when Hollywood's cops kicked asses, took names, and didn't get bogged down in pondering moral intricacies or trying to get closure on a mysterious traumatic event that happened before the movie started.
Pride and Glory follows four NYPD cops—brothers Ray and Franny Tierney (Norton and Emmerich), their dad Francis (Voight), and their brother-in-law, Jimmy (Farrell). Thanks to a mysterious traumatic event that happened before the movie started, Ray has been working a desk job, while Franny commands a bunch of NYPD officers, Francis sits around and drunkenly rambles, and Jimmy acts all shady. (SPOILER ALERT THAT WILL SURPRISE NO ONE: He's on the take!)
That's more than enough drama, but there are 80 kazillion other things going on, too: Ray tries to get over a rocky divorce, Jimmy juggles the demands of being both a crooked cop and a family man, Franny's wife slowly dies of cancer, and a renegade reporter tries to sniff out the truth. There's also some torture, some confessions, a lot of worrying about penance and loyalty, an inexplicable climactic fistfight, an impromptu pogrom, a potato used as a silencer (?!), and, last but not least, that hallmark of fine cinema: a scene in which an adorable baby gets plopped down on an ironing board and threatened with a hot iron.
It's all supposed to be deep and nuanced (well, except maybe for that ironed baby part), but it's too surface level to work: There's so much going on in Pride and Glory that there's not time to absorb any of it. Likewise, the way that director Gavin O'Connor and cinematographer Declan Quinn (who also shot another film opening this week, Rachel Getting Married) capture New York—as a rough, utilitarian, dilapidated sprawl—would be an authentic, welcome depiction of the rougher parts of the city if goofy plot contrivances didn't keep distracting one from it. I know he's based outta San Francisco, but I'm telling you—while an anguished Edward Norton and Colin Farrell are busy crying into their beers, Dirty Harry could've flown out to the Bronx and cleaned up this whole mess in about five minutes.