Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

So this movie, ‘We Own the Night’ I’m reading owes a lot to Martin Scorcese’s ‘The Departed’, which is funny because ‘The Departed’ owes EVERYTHING to the Hong Kong classic ‘Infernal Affairs’ and since ‘We Own the Night’ has very little relation to ‘Infernal Affairs’ it doesn’t owe ‘The Departed’ jack.  Plus ‘We Own the Night’ begins with the extremely gifted Eva Mendez playing with herself and then popping one out so ‘We Own the Night’, with a start like that, the sky’s the limit for this one

Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) hails from a family of police officers.  His father Burt, (Robert Duvall) is a chief of police and his brother Joe (Mark Wahlberg) has been promoted to captain of a narcotics task force.  Bobby on the hand wants very little to do with this life going so far as to use his mother’s maiden name as opposed to family sir name of Grusinsky.  Bobby manages one of New York’s hottest night spots for Russian furrier Spiro Giavannis (Paul Herman), has a sizzling girlfriend in Amada (Mendez) and overall life is just swell.  Conflict occurs when his family informs Bobby that brutal Russian drug dealer Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov), nephew of Spiro Giavannis, uses Bobby’s club as a meeting place to further his drug deals and that he needs to keep an eye out.  Bobby nixes that idea preferring to keep his distance from the family business and live his own life, but when Joseph and his band of merry cops raid Bobby’s club and Bobby ends getting tossed in the slam for his trouble, the brothers are now at odds.

All this changes when Vadim orders a hit on Joseph.  Next, without knowing that Joseph is his brother and Burt is his old man, Vadim confides in Bobby his plans to off the elder cop, and compiles that with informing Bobby that he would really like him to be part of his organization.  Bobby may have been a little upset with his brother and

father but he didn’t want them killed and now he becomes an informant to the police to bring the Russian mobster to justice.  Of course if things worked out as smooth as we would have liked, then what kind of movie would that be?  Everything goes straight to hell on all corners with all relations, leaving Bobby to make some extremely difficult decisions that will affect his life and the lives of everyone connected with him.

I liked a lot about this film, though I did have a few problems with the narrative that I will discuss later.  Certainly the performances are fine, however none of the actors, with all of their Academy Award nominations, performs anything close to what I would call a ‘stretch’.  Phoenix plays the rule breaking, free loving playboy, Wahlberg is the profane tough talking hard ass – and he seemed a bit too young to be elevated to the lofty rank of Police Captain, Duvall is the gruff angry old dude and Mendez as the smoldering vixen, who as the only principle member not recognized by the Academy as of yet, probably gives the best performance as her character arguably has to traverse a larger emotional arc.  I’m curious if director James Gray in conjunction with his Director of Photography Joaquin Boca-Asay used digital video for some of their shots because a lot of the scenes had a real gritty, not quite in focus digital feel to it.  Or maybe we just had a crappy projectionist back there.  Regardless, if you’re looking for atmosphere and mood, ‘We Own the Night’ has it spades. 

Now as far as my issues with this movie, and note this will tread into SPOILER territory so please stop reading (like somebody actually reads us) if you want to see the movie.  If I’m a drug dealer, particularly a BIG TIME drug dealer who cuts off peoples heads and stuffs their penises in their mouths as Vadim is rumored to have done, then I would probably be well aware some guy I’m thinking about bringing into my organization is the son of the Chief of Police and the brother of the Anti Narcotics Task Force.  Bobby didn’t actively hide his heritage, since he still went to Thanksgiving dinners and crap, he just didn’t tell anybody, so I didn’t really buy into that.  Also how screenwriter Gray managed to get Vadim out of jail was also a bit of a stretch, but it did lead to a great car chase scene though.  Lastly, considering that Spiro, the old man, is in the drug plan, it doubly doesn’t make sense that he would use the son of the Chief of Police as a conduit and since it’s his club, there are thousands of criminal elements who he could have used to further his illicit enterprise. 

Those issues with the story aside “We Own the Night” was a very entertaining, taut, edge of your seat style thriller from director James Gray, and certainly worth seeing on the big screen.  Oh yeah Mr. Gray?  I know your movie takes place in New York in 1988, but Blondie’s “Heart of Glass’ is circa 1978.  I don’t think any club DJ worth his salt is mixing ten year old songs for his party hopping twenty somethings.  I’m guessing that it must be like your favorite song or something and you had to find a way to squeeze it in, but you probably should have rolled with some George Michaels or some Rick Astley.  Maybe a little Richard Marx even, know what I’m saying?

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