Reviews

Monday, October 15, 2007

We Own the Night

Director: James Gray (The Yards)
Writer: James Gray
Producers: Mark Wahlberg, Nick Wechsler, Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Butan
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes, Alex Veadov
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 117 min
read my spoiler disclaimer



reviewed by Andrew James
     Trying too hard to be this year's The Departed, We Own the Night offers little that we haven't already seen. These are big stars in a "family comes first" episode of the typical cops and robbers sub genre. Thankfully, the director pushes and pulls at just the right moments to make the movie have several sequences that work just well enough to be more than enjoyable.

      It's pre-Giuliani 1988 and Joaquin Phoenix is Bobby Green; a fairly respectable nightclub owner in one of the country's most crime laden cities, The Bronx. Secretly though, and known only to himself and his latina girlfriend (Eva Mendes), Bobby has changed his last name to protect from the fact that his father (Duvall) and brother (Wahlberg) work within the NYPD. They ask him for his help in gathering some intel on a known, Russian drug supplier that hangs out quite often at his club. When he refuses, his club is raided and he's taken into custody. This sparks a debate between Bobby and his brother and father about loyalty and the fact that sooner or later everyone must make a choice: family or the drug dealers. Without giving anything away, let's just say that Bobby makes his choice quite obviously and so sparks a bloody street war of cops and bad guys.

      For me, the whole storyline felt sort of done before. I can't give an example other than last year's The Departed. It's a typical cops/mafia story about loyalty and family. I just didn't get anything new out of it and a lot of the script writing could've been re-worked in one way or another. Some of the dialogue was almost laughable - and not in a good way. Bringing in Oscar nominated Wahlberg really added to the whole Departed feel as well. Unfortunately the depth and intensity that made The Departed so successful just isn't there for this one and it is obvious Gray is no Scorsese.

      Having said that, there are two or three extended sequences that work unbelievably well and had the audience pawing at the chair's armrests. A massive drug deal and a rainy car chase being the two summits of enjoyment. This particular car chase isn't about speed or nifty choreography through one-way traffic and crash-em-ups. The element of realism is what drives (no pun intended) this scene. No soundtrack or overly emotional score beating you over the head. Instead, you get a subdued feeling of dread and limited visibility through buckets of rain. The only sounds you hear are muffled (which work unbelievably well) gunshots, screams and yelling; all to the beat of a set of windshield wipers. It might easily be one of the best sequences I've seen this year.

      Though I like Wahlberg quite a bit, his presence in films as of late have been waning for me a bit. He seems to be the same character in almost everything he's in. Either the sweet, lovable and quiet guy just trying to make it in this world; or he's the asshole loudmouth with an ego as big as my... well, let's just say it's big. Here is really no different. He plays very much the same character he did in The Departed. Although not to the same degree, it's obvious he's taken cues from the role of Staff Sgt Dignam. The scriptwriter tried to add in this complexity about post traumatic stress, but it really feels like it's there as an after thought and the there's very little depth to this character at all. Duvall plays the patriarchal leader as well as he always has (Days of Thunder and Open Range come to mind). But again, although great, still more of the same. And lastly, unfortunately Mendes' character is just there for a pretty face and someone for Bobby to lean on when the doors are closed.

      The only real standout is Phoenix. His character struggles throughout the entire picture with his sense of loyalty and the thought of getting mixed up with things he doesn't want anything to do with. His body language and facial expressions (particularly in the above mentioned scenes) were, to me, some outstanding acting abilities given what he had to work with. They truly portrayed well the emotion in his heart and gave forth something... anything... for the audience to relate to.

      There really isn't much else to say. If you like the actors involved (as I do), this is probably worth a shot. If you're able to enjoy a film for its style and directorial tonal qualities that really ring true and help give the lackluster story an emotional boost, We Own the Night will also probably work for you. If you're one of those people that can't see past a few glaring plot devices that don't really work and the obvious attempt to be something it's not, then stay away. You might find yourself rolling your eyes a few times and once that happens, the movie has lost you.

      Overall, I think it's worth a look if only for some nice acting and a terrific sense of style and again, the two or three suspenseful scenes; one of which is in the race (again, no pun intended) for top 10 sequences of the year. Coming in fourth at the box office on it's opening weekend, We Own the Night hardly does.
 


Click "play" to see the trailer:


Links:
IMDb profile - full cast and crew
Official Site
Flixster Profile for We Own the Night




 





andrew@moviepatron.com
Posted by Andrew James in
Review

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