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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 brianorndorf

"A big, broad piece of tough guy cinema...just lovely"
5 stars

A Shakespearian battle of wills and conscience form the heart of “We Own the Night.” A testy, mournful drama, “Night” crackles with the kind of hard-edged ideas of street justice and criminal panic that don’t come around often enough. It’s a sensational picture, best received by minds open to generous cinematic brush strokes of right and wrong.

The year is 1988, and Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) is a small-time club promoter unknowingly working for Russian gangsters. His estranged family, brother Joseph (Mark Wahlberg) and father Burt (Robert Duvall), are New York City cops looking to take down a drug-running associate of the club. Asking for Bobby’s cooperation with the investigation, the club wizard is caught between the power of success and the love of his floozy girlfriend (Eva Mendes), and the police blood that flows in his veins. When the Russians start to make destructive moves toward Bobby’s family, he finds his choice already made for him.

In “The Yards” and “Little Odessa,” writer/director James Gray revealed his attraction to the criminal underground; how crossroads of faith and judgment shaped his characters as they fought to defend their mistakes and hope to correct their wayward lives. “We Own the Night” continues that exploration, only now on a more mythical playing field. It’s cops vs. bad guys on the coke-lined gutters of New York City, and Gray brings a bleak enormity to it all that’s difficult to resist.

Reteaming Phoenix and Wahlberg after their work together in “Yards,” “Night” is simply an actor’s dream, allocating meaty roles to the cast that require bold proclamations of distress and disbelief. Phoenix is especially exceptional, extracting areas of torment in Bobby that help Gray’s script find the reality it needs to keep dishing out larger-than-life sequences of revenge. Wahlberg and Duvall hold the smaller roles, but their performances ring with a level of steel blue loyalty that positions the film into unbelievable moments of violence and tragedy.

There are two sequences that come to mind when considering the potency of “Night.” These are flashes of chaos that are simply masterful in their execution. The first is a drug bust that loses itself to bullet-blazing madness, forcing a character to make a hasty exit out of a window that produces frightful results. The other is a rainstorm car chase that doesn’t have much in the way of velocity or gloss, just brilliant staging that exploits the precarious moment spotlessly, crossing confusion with panic in an unforgettable fashion that takes Gray’s directorial skill to new heights. It’s the most effective piece of suspense I’ve seen this year.

With cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay’s stupendous work bringing the audience into the literal dark corners of the criminal underground, “Night” soon assumes a more theatrical stance where family comes first and evil must be punished. Gray tries every which way he can to prevent the film from snowballing into a predictable essay on familial honor, but “Night” is at its most enchanting and direct when it lunges for those juicy emotions. For the most part, “Night” is a film of subtlety and care, but watching Bobby struggle volcanically his destiny, tango with white-hot betrayal, and flush out Russian crime lords in a smoke-filled marsh is undeniably thrilling on primitive, fist-clenching level as much as it is on a cerebral one.

“We Own the Night” is a potent, fantastic film concerning honor and obligation, but it’s tough to deny the tortured, flared-nostril appeal of Phoenix and Wahlberg barking after crime as if they were being paid by the punch.

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originally posted: 10/12/07 15:27:26
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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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