Megan (Bell) is married to tough cop Jimmy Egan (Farrell). When she discovers her husband's complicity in a police corruption scandal that her brother (Norton) is investigating, she must choose between her husband and her family.
Originally scheduled to shoot in 2001, this police corruption/family drama was postponed following the September 11 attacks, with it deemed inappropriate to suggest dishonesty in the wake of the NYPD’s heroism in those days. But the strange thing about this film is that, despite the institutional cover-ups and the bent cops that appear, this is a remarkably balanced look at the police force, one that’s even, at times, idealised.
Its problem is that the subject of corruption among Irish-American cops felt clichéd — a given — by the time of On The Waterfront, never mind following The Wire or The Departed. So the focus here is on the clash between the brotherhood between fellow officers and the literal fraternal relationships at its heart: between Edward Norton’s Ray Tierney, assigned to investigate the deaths of four cops in an apparent drugs bust, his brother Frannie (Noah Emmerich), the head of the dead cops’ precinct, and brother-in-law Jimmy (Farrell), the dead men’s sergeant. When Ray learns that his family may have been involved in the deaths, he’s placed in an impossible ethical dilemma.
Shot in the gritty style of a CSI or Law & Order, under cloudy skies and amid decayed street scenes worthy of a post-apocalyptic horror movie, this has atmosphere to spare, and a cast that bring even simple scenes to life. Norton doesn’t stretch even a little as the cop with a conscience — he’s played much the same thing before in the second half of American History X, say. Farrell, too, is on familiar ground, mixing likable, dodgy and guilt-tortured in the way that only a true Irishman can (Irish stereotypes are touched on regularly throughout, from the numerous redheads, to the endless Irish bars, to a climactic fistfight). The rest of the cast is solid, but so uniformly that it’s a kind of miracle. Noah Emmerich and Jennifer Ehle in particular create their own Catch-22 subplot, while John Ortiz’ nervy cop sweats and squirms magnetically as the net tightens around him.
It’s an eminently serviceable thriller, then, one that sketches a convincing portrait of brotherhood among New York’s Finest amid moments of effective high drama — but it can’t quite convince when so many of the ingredients are so terribly familiar.
A well-acted and tightly structured piece that would be more impactful if there werent a feeling that weve seen it before.