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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20.45%
Worth A Look29.55%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad: 20.45%
Total Crap: 4.55%

5 reviews, 14 user ratings

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We Own the Night
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by Erik Childress

"Iím Still Unsure Who Exactly Owns It"
2 stars

Maybe the next person who goes to see this film can tell me exactly who owns the night. Itís such a bold claim in the title and Iím unsure as to its good guy/bad guy significance. Is it the Russian mafia staking a claim for the evening in 1988? They are just supporting players though so how can they boast? Maybe itís the other side with the cops; that tight code of silence circa Brooklyn that look out for their own and rain vengeance when one of theirs goes down. Sure they put in a bid, but Iím still not buying it. I got it Ė itís the tight screws of family blood; the bond of brothers that can never be broken even when theyíre estranged. Frankly, whomever owns it they can keep it cause weíve all got better things to do at night than to see a virtually unconscious film that makes Johnny Dangerously look like Angels with Dirty Faces.

Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) runs a Brooklyn nightclub for some cuddly Russian gangsters; the kind that still plays a steady rotation of Blondie and affords him time to pull down Eva Mendesí dress in his office. She plays Amada Juarez, the loyal girlfriend enjoying her expensive wardrobe courtesy of Bobby. Joseph Grusinsky (Mark Wahlberg) has a Polish name, but heís really Bobbyís brother and a police officer to boot; one whoís rising in the department much to the honor of their chief of police father, Bert (Robert Duvall). Joseph warns Bobby that heís about to hit his financiers hard, starting with nailing nightclub regular, Vadim Mezshinski (Alex Veadov), the biggest drug dealer in town.

Bobby dismisses his warnings and after Joseph leads a raid on his club during primetime, his brother is targeted for execution; an action that forces Bobby to choose sides. Dad isnít keen on getting another son hurt and is half-heartedly dismissive in Bobby wiring up and informing on his partners. Good thing they have different last names and no one has any idea heís connected to the law. By blood, no less. Those stealthy polacks. Reminds me of the old joke I just made up Ė How does a polack go undercover? He covers up his badge.

We Own the Night seems to be mining for all sorts of revenge-inducing emotions with diamond-incrusted sides of reconciliation and violent ambushes of action. Writer/director James Gray, whose previous films were the nothing-to-write-home-about family crime sagas Little Odessa and The Yards (also with Phoenix & Wahlberg) has managed to digress as a storyteller though, hoping maybe that his actorsí presence will be enough to overlook how little he has. The screenplay reaches near-laughable turns such as when Bobby all of a sudden goes from some deputized officer right out of a western to training for the real thing, which in the course of the filmís running time looks easier than getting a GED. Then again, any police force who canít seem to hold on to Vadim after nabbing him twice and watching him escape the second time (which we never get to watch, only hear about), is probably a two-week course anyway.

After making such an Oscar-nominated impression in The Departed, Wahlbergís off-switch appears to be on again. It helps that he spends most of the film unconscious in the hospital, but when he emerges again for the finale Gray takes this moment to introduce a little phobia about getting shot. This gives Phoenix the opportunity for his walk-through-hell moment which by the time it comes means nothing to us other than as a visual motif whose temperature is well hotter than the cold shoulder weíve been delivered in the drama and suspense department. Even the filmís one visually arresting sequence, a rainy car chase, is diluted by the familiarity of the situation and our lack of surprise at its outcome.

Conventionality is the dark cloud hovering over We Own the Night and thereís no light shining to make this even a passable crime actioner like the forthcoming (and more ambitious) American Gangster. Itís not a throwback thatís the cause celebre recently in films like that and David Fincherís Zodiac unless youíre taking the more literal translation of throwback. If Scorseseís infiltrating cops-and-crooks epic is the modern tops and Cronenbergís Eastern Promises is the skillfully made if been-there/done-that middle ground, then James Grayís We Own the Night is well at the back of the bouncerís line where people who donít own a damn thing stand idly and never make it in.

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originally posted: 10/12/07 14:00:00
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User Comments

12/25/09 Jeff Wilder Entertaining. But the script is preachy and predictable. 3 stars
5/07/09 DK Better than average, so-so script is helped by fine performances and moments of tension 3 stars
5/03/09 Monday Morning As with most films these days, a lot of TV shows are much better. 3 stars
3/28/08 Piz Kind of a letdown. Lots of potential but just fizzles out. A snoozer by the end. 2 stars
3/09/08 Anthony Feor It offers so much and gives so little 2 stars
3/03/08 Mark One of the worst movies I've ever seen. Horrificly written movie on an epic scale. 1 stars
2/18/08 Dan Bland. I'd give it 2.5 stars if I could, but it's not quite good enough for 3. 2 stars
2/13/08 action movie fab gritty.powerful drama involving cops and gangsters french connection style climax fizzled 4 stars
12/13/07 William Goss Besides a striking car chase, proceedings are thoroughly conventional. 3 stars
12/03/07 jonathan i love it. one of the best films for me 5 stars
10/15/07 Caryl David Excellent film. Edge of your seat suspense. Excellent direction, writing. 5 stars
10/14/07 Jules Fantastic work from Phoenix, several impressive suspenseful scenes and real atmosphere 5 stars
10/14/07 Private Standard crime family drama but with a 70's sensibility. 3 stars
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  12-Oct-2007 (R)



Directed by
  James Gray

Written by
  James Gray

  Joaquin Phoenix
  Mark Wahlberg
  Robert Duvall
  Eva Mendes
  Tony Musante
  Alex Veadov

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