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Now and Then – Pride and Glory and Prince of the City


          Now: Pride and Glory (2008)
             Then: Prince of the City (1981)
What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?
A Cop Is Turning … Nobody’s Safe

Moviemakers love New York’s mean streets — and exploring the conflicted souls of the cops who patrol them. This week’s Pride and Glory sees cop Edward Norton investigating the murder of four NYPD officers — only to uncover a ring of corruption led by his brother-in-law Colin Farrell. In 1981’s Prince of the City , Treat Williams volunteers to go undercover to trap his corrupt fellow cops. Which thriller is more arresting?

The Thin Blue Line
Both movies were written by insiders: Pride and Glory director Gavin O’Connor is the son of a New York policeman, while Prince of the City is based on a novel by Robert Daley, a NYPD veteran who even served a year as Deputy Commissioner. Both movies are loaded with jargon — a precinct’s a “house,” the Special Narcotics Unit’s the “SNU,” — and yet Daley’s book, based on actual events, plays a little more real on-screen. You can guess just by looking at the poster how Pride and Glory‘s might end; Prince of the City makes no guarantees.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Pride and Glory features two great actors — the brooding, aware Norton and the brawnier, brawling Farrell. They’re the superego and the id of the NYPD — one represents the public good; the other, private gain. In Prince of the City, Treat Williams has to carry both roles. He wants to clean up the force, but not his dirty partners — and the decision to keep that conflict in one man means Williams is fighting himself. Not literally — Prince and the City lacks the climactic bare-knuckle brawl between Norton and Farrell — but it also doesn’t have any easy outs.

Family Matters

Both movies take care to show us the family surrounding their leads, the blood ties and the ones provided by the police force. Pride and Glory does a better job of integrating the family stuff with the NYPD. For Norton, policing is the family business — his father is a police chief; his brother is Farrell’s commanding officer. Williams’ work world is less interwoven with his home life in Prince of the City, but it does take its toll. As he and wife (Lindsay Crouse) are taken to their new safehouse after he’s exposed as an informer, Crouse looks at the huge home with bleak resignation on her face: “It’s everything I wanted … just not like this.”

The Verdict

Both Pride and Glory and Prince of the City are shot in bruise blue and concrete gray, visually underscoring these movies are about cops trying to do right in a wicked world. Pride and Glory has its moments — Farrell and Norton are each more charismatic and compelling than Williams — but at the same time, the raw, true-tale power of Prince of the City has a bleak cruelty and moral punch that adds up to much more than Pride and Glory‘s twists and thrills.

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