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Movie Review

The Tierneys have a family business. No, they don't sell furniture or run a shipping company or dabble in politics. The Tierneys are cops—a veritable police dynasty. Francis Sr. is a law enforcement bigwig just a few years away from retirement. Francis Jr. is an up-and-coming commander, a man destined (his pop says) to become a full inspector in short order. Daughter Megan didn't join the force, but Jimmy—the guy she married—did.

Little brother Ray? He's an officer, too, frittering away his investigative gifts in the supposedly dead-end missing persons department. He likes the gig just fine, but to hear Pop talk, he's a bit of a disappointment to the fam.

When four of Fran's men are gunned down in a bust gone wrong, Pop begs Ray to return to what he considers proper police work and join the department's task force investigating the slaughter.

"Go at it with all the gifts God gave you," he says. "You can't forsake them. Don't sit on your hands."

Ray agrees, and soon he nails down a primary suspect in the form of Angel Tezo, a drug-dealing lowlife who fled the scene in a cab and then dispatched the driver. But as Ray tries to track Angel down, complications arise. First, he hears it was a cop who tipped Angel off about the raid. Then, when he asks brother Fran as to whether he's heard of the guy, Fran gets suspiciously edgy.

Later that night, Pop pays Ray a visit and advises him not to get sidetracked by ancillary details ... like potentially dirty cops. "If you see anything else that seems off, you come to me and we deal with it," Pop tells him.

As it turns out, crooked policemen are far from ancillary. Seems a small band of New York's Finest were an important cog in Angel's machine, guilty of stealing drugs, planting false evidence and murder. Now, those same cops are desperate to cover their trail. They need to get to Angel before Ray does—and kill him before he can talk.

Positive Elements

Pride and Glory revolves around two major themes—honor and family—and the friction that can result when one rubs up against the other.

The Tierneys love one another deeply, and they're proud of being cops. During Christmas dinner, Pop gushes over his children's achievements ("my kids are the most important thing in the whole world!" he says), and Fran and Ray say that, even when they were kids, they never dreamed of doing anything else but join the force. They hold the oath "to protect and serve" with the highest regard.

[Spoiler Warning] This leads to problems. All three compromise—or have compromised—their ethics to "protect and serve" their families or fellow officers. "We protect our own, Ray," Pop says. "That's all I know." Fran is in a particularly prickly situation: The dirty cops are all under his authority and, while he never knew the extent of their crooked dealings, he still looked the other way far too often. Now things are falling apart and, even though he himself was never involved in anything untoward, the buck still stops with him.

He confesses to his wife he's in a pickle, though he spares the details. To make it right, he says, he'll have to ruin "everything I've been working for."

His wife, dying of cancer, pauses. Then she tells Fran that, whatever he's done, there's a good man inside him. "I trust you with my children," she says. "I need you to be that man."

From that moment on, Fran becomes the film's most heroic figure. He walks out saying, "I got your back, Abby," turns down a huge bribe to keep quiet and confronts his own father, saying that sometimes "protecting our own" isn't good enough. "This s--- ends now," he says. "Tonight. And if it means I can't be a cop no more, I'm OK with that." To top his evening off, he staves off a hostage situation, saves a couple of lives (one innocent, one not-so-much) and nips a potential riot in the bud. Then, the next morning, he heads to court to face the music.

All three Tierneys eventually take the honorable road, even though they know it may ironically end in shame. Ray refuses to lie to an investigative panel. (He falls silent when they ask him to snitch on his family.) Pop accepts Fran's decision and walks in with him to the courthouse. The Tierneys discover that hard choices sometimes lead to hard times. But they've decided it's much better to walk through those times—together—with heads held high.

Spiritual Content

The camera sometimes eyes a cross hanging on a wall or around someone's neck, and filmmaker Gavin O'Connor perhaps uses these brief glances as indications of an overarching morality—a sense that what we do out of the sight of others still matters. Indeed, when one ex-policeman, dirty and disgraced, meets a reporter undercover to spill the beans about his old department's crooked ways, the meeting takes the form of a confession: The reporter sits in the front seat of a parked car, the ex-cop slinks into the back. The two rarely face each other, as if separated by an unspoken sense of propriety, though we occasionally see the ex-cop's eyes in the rearview mirror.

As if to underline the confession vibe, the reporter says, "I'm not a priest. I'm a writer." Fair enough, for the ex-cop doesn't feel all that absolved. "There is no atonement [for this]," he says. "I'm going to burn." (And then he covers his face with a blanket and shoots himself in the head.)

Sexual Content

Angel's girlfriend apparently dislikes clothes. The first time we see her, she's not wearing anything below the waist. (We see her from the side.) The next time, she's running through a hallway, her robe-like garment fluttering open and revealing her breasts. She appears to get sexually aroused when Angel shoots a man, using a potato as a silencer.

Violent Content

There's a lot of ground to cover here, so for starters, I'll focus on three specific events. [Spoilers are included]

Scene No. 1: Two crooked police officers barge into a man's apartment and begin beating and kicking him. Blood pours out of the man's face while the women in the apartment wail and cry. When the man's wife or girlfriend—holding an infant— tries to intervene, one of the cops hits her square in the face and grabs the baby. He proceeds to put the child on an ironing board and threatens to burn the baby's face with a hot iron, putting it within an inch of the skin. Upon leaving, the cop uses the harshest language possible to threaten the bleeding man with his own death, the rape of his wife and the murder of the child.

Scene No. 2: Ray barges into an apartment and finds Jimmy and a couple of other cops torturing Angel, who's trapped in a bathtub while officers shove a police baton down his throat. (We later hear that half of his teeth were snapped off by the baton and settled in his stomach.) Angel makes gagging and retching noises. When Ray tries to stop the torture, Jimmy takes Ray's gun and shoots Angel three times, killing him.

Scene No. 3: Ray and Jimmy beat each other bloody. Jimmy appears to get the upper hand before Ray reaches for a pool ball and bashes Jimmy's head with it a couple of times. The camera follows the ball as it rolls across the billiard table, its white surface marbled with blood. Later, as Ray leads Jimmy away from the bar in handcuffs, the pair run into a group of revenge-minded hooligans (led by, coincidentally, the man from Scene 1) who knock Ray unconscious and beat Jimmy to death, beginning when one of them smashes Jimmy's face with a crowbar.

Interspersed, audiences see other shootings, about a dozen bodies in various states of mutilation, several windows spattered with blood, one jarring suicide, a minor-but-gory operation (Angel gets a bullet wound stitched up, then shoots the impromptu doctor) and a couple of pretty disturbing beatings.

Though the gore doesn't necessarily reach Saw-like proportions, Pride and Glory isn't your typical police procedural, either. Many in the screening audience audibly gasped during several scenes, and the woman sitting next to me spent the last third of the film covering her face with her hands.

Crude or Profane Language

Are you ready for this? Characters in Pride and Glory utter the f-word more than 300 times: That's more f-words than there were Spartans defending the pass of Thermopylae, and an average of more than two a minute. At least 50 s-words join the melee of flagrancy, as do a bevy of other crudities and curses (from "c--k" to "d--n" and "a--"). God's and Jesus' names are also abused numerous times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Pop is an avid drinker, and he gets inebriated at his extended family's Christmas dinner. At another juncture, he's a bit tipsy when he visits Ray. He says he just had one glass of Scotch. When Ray looks dubious, Pop says, "I used the same glass, yeah."

A dirty cop consumes what looks to be cocaine. Angel's girlfriend is apparently a heroin addict. Ray takes an informant's drugs and crushes each "serving" under foot, one by one, until he gets the information he came for. Angel is seen smoking something that doesn't look like a cigarette.

Other Negative Elements

Twice we see men stand at urinals, doing their business.


One of the most fascinating things about Christianity is its rich sense of paradox. The first will be last. The weak will become strong. Our Shepherd became a sheep.

Pride and Glory's parallel take? To rediscover true honor, one must sometimes be shamed. In this way, the film is a refreshing change from typical fare: Most movies, it seems, either grant the audience the obligatory happy ending or crush it with a sense of random nihilism. The Tierneys, instead, honor a high moral code and, eventually, follow that code at great personal cost. And yet there's no question, in their minds or the moviemakers', that they've made the right decision.

"My father was a New York City detective, and I grew up in that world," Gavin O'Connor told Variety. "It's a celebration of honest cops, which was everything my father was about."

But there's another paradox here—that this fine message would be buried in so much foul language and visceral violence as to make this film nearly unwatchable. You have to dig deep indeed to rescue this bit of goodness. And even when you pluck it from the filth it comes up tarnished.

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Edward Norton as Ray Tierney; Colin Farrell as Jimmy Egan; Noah Emmerich as Francis Tierney Jr.; Jon Voight as Francis Tierney Sr.


Gavin O'Connor ( )


New Line Cinema



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Paul Asay

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