L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

 

Introduction: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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Pride and Glory (Digital Copy Special Edition) [Blu-ray]

 

(Gavin O'Connor, 2007)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: New Line Cinema & Solaris Entertainment

Blu-ray: New Line Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 130 min

Chapters: 32

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

Release date: January 27th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1

 

Audio:

Dolby TrueHD English 5.1; Dolby Digital English 5.1

 

Subtitles:

Feature: English & Spanish, Extras: English & Spanish (on selected material)

 

Extras:

Making of...

 

 

The Film: 4

"I thought you knew. Everybody knew." – Sandy.


As a team, the O'Connor brothers (Gavin & Gregory) are relatively new to the feature film business, and with Pride and Glory, they enter their names for consideration into that pantheon that includes the Coens, Wachowskis and Farrellys. Gavin directed Miracle (2004), and wrote and directed Tumbleweeds (1999) plus a couple others; Gregory served as producer for three of Gavin's movies, Pride and Glory being his first writing credit. So let's have a closer look at their first effort.

Their movie visits the subject of loyalty among cops on the take, dramatized so richly in Sidney Lumet's Prince of the City, and adds a layer of blood-related family. It's an interesting and obvious idea, though it strikes me as overkill even in concept. The notion that police work, especially in certain units like narco, breeds a level of trust and loyalty akin to firefighters and war buddies is so ingrained in our imagination it is in danger of becoming a cliché. It is a danger no longer.

 

 


Ray (Edward Norton) and Frank (Noah Emmerich) are the sons of Francis Tierney (Jon Voight), who either is or ought to be a retired NYPD police officer of some rank. Frank heads a unit that suffers the dramatic loss of four cops in a strange shootout in Washington Heights. His brother-in-law, Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell), is one of Frank's officers and is obviously broken up about the shootings. Ray had assigned himself to Missing Persons for the past couple of years following an incident that left a bad taste for this otherwise very moral cop, but his father insists he come out of his self-imposed retirement to help out the family in this time of crisis. Ray's special skill is investigation, and it doesn't take long for the trail to lead back to Jimmy, ad possibly to Frank. The issue of cop loyalty is compounded by blood ties. The question now is what to do about it?

Obviously, the brothers O'Connor were shooting for maximum authenticity in the look and feel of their movie. The walk is there and, I suppose, the talk – though no amount of foul language can conceal how clumsy the script is. After a while, the sheer coincidence and piling up of its many familiar thematic elements results in something very inauthentic: Ray is disillusioned and separated from his wife: Frank's wife has terminal cancer; Jimmy's wife is pregnant with yet another child; "Pop" is a drunk whose notion of doing the right thing is so old school it's a terminal disease of its own; the bad guys – the ones that aren't cops - are complete slims without a single pang of conscience between them. But most egregious of all is the staging of the final confrontation between Ray and Jimmy in a ridiculous macho showdown that made me embarrassed for the actors for my having to watch it.

While the film's lack of nuance is worn like a badge of honor, the movie is not without some compelling moments: the Tierney family gathering on Christmas morning is a touching and credible snapshot of the American family, Voight's drunken monologue at a family dinner where he goes on and on about how wonderful his kids are, and the scene where one of Jimmy's fellow officers loses it altogether and holds a store owner hostage is honorable – thought he effort is soon undone by director Gavin's simplistic direction. The O'Connors have a long way to go before they can enter the ranks of the Coens and Wachowskis with their heads up.

 


 

Image: 6/8
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

For reasons passing understanding the look of the movie shifts from razor sharp and well-focused to soft and blurry. Well, that statement is a bit of an exaggeration, but it does express my puzzlement about the image. I have no reason to think that the transfer is the problem, but I can't understand why it's shot that way in the first place. Most of the time there is a persistent, but appropriate, medium grain, as well as a blue-magenta color cast throughout (NYPD magenta?) Blacks are sensibly crushed. Noise is minimal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 6/8
Pride and Glory is not really an action thriller as much as a drama – at least, that's its intention, so the audio mix, despite its being uncompressed (which is way, way better than the DD 5.1 option), never quite nails the gunfire, the elevated train and fast car sounds. Even the ambience is too subtle to be immersive. The dialogue is rarely crisp. All the same, I felt that the audio mix is about right for a drama.

 

Operations: 6
With only one extra feature, there's not much to tell here. The disc loads promptly; the menu, while lacking inspiration, is functional, except for the common mistake of offering a large white PLAY MOVIE function that appears to be operational when it isn't because there's a wee indicator for the documentary that's easy to miss. The documentary has chapter stops, for which, considering its length, we can be grateful.

 

 

 

Extras: 4
In place of a commentary there is an hour long documentary about the making of the movie. So dedicated to authenticity (an oft-repeated concept in this feature) that it spends half of its length in the preparations necessary before shooting: teaching the cast how to act like cops or thugs and ingratiating the crew to the Washington Heights neighborhood where the movie is shot. There is a considerable amount of low grade video material here with very high noise levels in the night time shots.

 

 

Bottom line: 6
Pride and Glory is a curious title for a movie about cops. I get the pride part, but not the glory. Am I missing something – do cops really think their job is the stuff glory is made of. I had always imagined their work to be too disrespected by the average citizen to warrant glory. In any case, the movie serves to satisfy the need for a faux-gritty, if predictable, story about corrupt and not very smart cops and those that worry about bringing them to justice. The image and audio quality is variable, probably through no fault of the Blu-ray.

Leonard Norwitz
January 23rd, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

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