We Own the Night (2007)

We Own the Night (2007)

Director: James Gray

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix as Bobby Green, Eva Mendes as Amada Juarez, Danny Hoch as Jumbo Falsetti, Alex Veadov as Vadim Nezhinski, Oleg Taktarov as Pavel Lubyarsky, Dominic Colon as Freddie, Joe D'Onofrio as Bloodied Patron, Yelena Solovey as Kalina Buzhayev (as Elena Solovey), Moni Moshonov as Marat Buzhayev, Mark Wahlberg as Joseph Grusinsky, Maggie Kiley as Sandra Grusinsky, Paul Herman as Spiro Giavannis, Robert Duvall as Burt Grusinsky, Antoni Corone as Michael Solo, Craig Walker as Russell De Keifer

The Grusinsky family is a family of cops, father Bert is Deputy Chief
and son Joe is Captain. However son Bobby has shunned this side of the
family and, to Bert's chagrin, is using his mother's maiden name and is
running a club in Brooklyn, mixing with those who see the police as a
joke and the city as theirs. As a result the family is split, with
neither willing to see the others' point of view. When Joe leads a raid
on Booby's club and picks up several men of a high-profile Russian
mobster the outcome is bloodshed - with a hit put out on Joe. With the
Russians unaware of the family connection, Bobby must decide who he
stands with and the risks he is willing to take for his family.

We Own the Night came and went in the cinemas over here and struck me
as being one of those thrillers that gets made that is solid enough to
watch but not remarkable enough to do really well. This was enough to
make me check it out anyway though and it turned out to be pretty much
what it appeared to be in the overview. This is no bad thing though
because a solid thriller is still a solid thriller and sometimes that
is a welcome relief from all the noisy, superficial blockbusters handed
to us week in, week out. Set in the 1980's, the film does recall the
cop thrillers of the 1970's to a certain point and it does feel like an
old fashioned film in terms of the characters and the way it is shot
and the rather grey and oppressive feel to the city of the time does
lend itself to the narrative.

It's not a film of gripping tension though. There are several really
well done scenes that are unbearably tragic and tense (the shoot-out
between cars is particularly good) but mostly the film takes a slower
pace that focuses on the characters. It is a good direction to go but
the problem is that Gray allows it all to get just that bit too sombre
and heavy and it does have an impact on the film in regards slowing it
down somewhat. This seems to have been passed onto the cast as well,
who are generally restrained in their emotions - again not a massive
criticism but it does feel a bit like all these factors are weighing
down the film to a certain extent. Phoenix impresses despite this and
he does convince in his character even if he himself comes over like he
has a weight on his shoulders that is crushing him; I get that that is
part of his character but again it adds this sense of slowness to
proceedings. Wahlberg is underused and has too little time and
opportunity to make the most of his character - he is very much a
supporting player. Duvall is better because his presence adds more and
the lack of time doesn't take away from him as he does what he has to
do. I enjoyed seeing Mendes doing more than being her usual foxy and a
bit playful self - trust me, I do love her in that mode but she is
capable of more. Gray and his cinematographer provide style when it
matters but I think he is mostly responsible for the rather heavy feel
to the entire film and it does rather suck the energy out of the film.

I'm not suggesting that this film should have been zingy and "fun" but
just that it is sombre to the point of being a bit too much like hard
work at times. In terms of content, characters and themes I found that
it all worked but that this sense of weight did affect it. Still a
solid film that is dramatically satisfying in an old fashioned way but
these issues do prevent it being as memorable as it could have been.

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