Joaquin Phoenix really gave it all with his great performance and so did Mark Wahlberg. I am not a Robert Duvall fan, but he was totally believable and loved him. Eva Mendes... not bad, but it just seemed a little too much in my opinion. The story line is rushed in a little and somewhat confusing at time, but overall very entertaining. Normally, I would not rate a gangster movie such as this one because I don't really like them and it wouldn't be fair for people who loves them, but this one I can sincerely say that I enjoyed it until the end.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Both sides think they own the nightJuly 19 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
The film is covering well known territory, and it doesn't bring totally new aspects into it. Just a normal "New York cops versus gangsters" flick, imagine a cross of the Departed and Eastern Promises. We all know that in the 90s, Mr.Giuliani singlehandedly and famously cleaned up NYC (unless it really happened differently, eg via the mechanisms mentioned in Freakonomics). Before his magic touch saved the city, it appears that NY cops were the laughing stock of the streets. Gangsters were in control, it seems. What we have here, set in 88, is a confrontation between a Russian drug ring and the cops, among whom the father and son team Duvall/Wahlberg is prominent. They have a prodigal son/brother (Phoenix), who happens to work as a night club manager for the Russians and has a Latina girl friend (Mendes). You see right away where this is leading, but then, no, you don't quite. The script succeeds in avoiding overdone predictability. With hindsight, no big surprise happens, but you never quite know how it will unfold. In other words, if you like the genre, this is a first class product. Some have given low grades here for the fact that it is not original. True, it isn't very. But I would rather watch a solid movie in a proven and interesting genre than an original bore in a new one.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
interesting plot and fine Joaquin Phoenix performanceNov. 4 2007
Roland E. Zwick
- Published on Amazon.com
Taking its title from the motto engraved on all NYPD officers' badges, "We Own the Night" is essentially the Prodigal Son story transplanted to the mean, crime-ridden streets of New York City. Robert Duvall is Burt Grusinsky, a high ranking police chief with two sons, one "good" and the other "bad." Joseph has eagerly followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a captain on the force, while Bobby wants nothing whatsoever to do with the police and, in fact, spends much of his time running around with the unsavory drug dealers who frequent the lucrative nightclub he successfully manages. It isn't until one of those associates has Joseph shot after a narcotics raid on the club that Bobby learns where his true loyalties lie. He agrees to go undercover for the force to unmask the identity of the shooter and bring down the Russian drug cartel that set Joseph up.
At times, while watching the movie, I kept thinking that writer/director James Gray had simply grafted the Michael Corleone story onto "The Departed." Still, despite its derivative nature, "We Own the Night" is a tightly scripted, occasionally ingenious police procedural featuring a riveting, knockout performance by Joaquin Phoenix in the role of Bobby. He gets solid support from Duval, Mark Wahlberg as Joseph, and Eva Mendes as the true love who doesn't feel all that comfortable with Bobby's sudden fascination with helping out the police.
Gray provides a number of highly suspenseful moments, as well as a terrifically mounted car chase through the rain-soaked streets of the city. The sound is also unusually effective, creating an often surrealistic sense of dislocation at crucial dramatic moments (though the Blondie-inspired soundtrack is slightly anachronistic for 1988, the year in which the story is set).
Bobby's conversion from lawbreaker to law enforcer is not always entirely convincing and we are often forced to accept quite a bit on faith just to keep the story rolling. In the long run, though, the polish and professionalism displayed on both sides of the camera ultimately lift the movie above its various imperfections.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Opposite SidesMarch 29 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
"Booed at the Cannes film festival (always a sign that a movie has good energy), James Gray's pulverizing crime drama is unafraid to put its passions right out where it's easy to mock them. We Own the Night is defiantly, refreshingly unhip." Peter Travers
A movie that does not have original material, but it works in spurts. The dark underworld of Russian crime- this is the group du jour of crime nowadays. The New York City Police Department who in the 1980's according to Roger Ebert used the 'We Own the Night" slogan of the New York police, painted on the sides of their squad cars as a promise to take back the night from the drug trade. Two members of the NYP- Robert Duval and Mark Wahlberg as father and son want to bring that drug trade down. The other brother, Joaquin Phoenix, for whatever reason, has become the manager of a club that caters to the drug crowd. At opposite ends, oh yes. Until, until, something big happens and the son Bobby Green turns to the side of the law. Eva Menedes does an admirable job playing Bobby's love interest, and this emotional tangle brings this film some real credibility.
The action in this film and in particular the car chase on a wet rainy night with fog so thick you can barely see is a raw knuckle event. The raw and grainy fear is palpable, and I can envision the fear and heart racing excitement.
"But this is an atmospheric, intense film, well acted, and when it's working it has a real urgency. Scenes where a protagonist is close to being unmasked almost always work. The complexity of Bobby's motives grows intriguing, and the concern of his girl friend Armada is well-used. "We Own the Night" may not solve the question of ownership, but it does explore who lives in the night, and why." Roger Ebert
Recommended. prisrob 03-29-08
The Big Hit
It's All About Love
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
We own the talentFeb. 6 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
One of the saddest things in film is watching the utter waste of impressive and potential talent. We Own the Night is one such film.
The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, and Eva Mendes and has the outline for a good story--two brothers on opposite sides of the law--despite it being somewhat unoriginal. Even with this much promise and generous runtime of two hours, this film manages to ruin all the possible good performances by under-developing the characters as well as cramming way too much into the plot.
Because of that very reason I will not go into the details of the plot. All that is really explainable is that as I said there are two brothers one a police officer (played by Mark Wahlberg) the other a night club manager (played by Joaquin Phoenix). Their father (played by Robert Duvall) is the police chief and he wants Joaquin to help him catch a major drug dealer. This sounds simple enough but there are more subplots that break of from there that don't leave enough time for each one so you never connect with any of the characters or their plights. Everything is so quick, easy, and comes together so simply that it reminds me almost of one of those B-grade TV movies that went straight to DVD.
It is so sad seeing the talent of two Oscar-nominated actors wasted. There is nothing wrong with both Wahlberg's and Joaquin's performances, but their characters are so by-the-book with no warmth or energy to them that it causes their performances to seem mediocre.
There is nothing striking about the film production everything is what we would see in many other gangster/drug lord films. There also seemed to be to many similar moments from others films including slow-motion shots.
By the end of the film I felt completely shut out from it, just hoping it would end soon. The only thing that made it even slightly bearable to tolerate for its' two hours was the fact that it had such a good cast who all tried their best with the material. It was as if they were on a sinking ship and even with desperate attempts to pump the water out and plug the hole the ship was still going to sink.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Cast, Routine Plot...Feb. 21 2008
Benjamin J Burgraff
- Published on Amazon.com
James Gray's 1980s paean of a NYC family of cops vs. the Russian mob, "We Own the Night" refreshingly doesn't portray policemen as crooked or amoral, but, despite the star power involved, never achieves greatness, either. Sadly, the plot is predictable, and the climax, contrived.
This is not to say the film hasn't merit; Joaquin Phoenix, as the 'black sheep' son who dabbles in 'the dark side' before becoming an 'avenging angel' cop, is superb, as is Eva Mendes, who, for once, is allowed to show more depth than her usual 'window dressing' roles. Robert Duvall demonstrates a restraint in his 'father' role that has been missing in most of his recent work, losing the Southern twang for the crisp diction reminiscent of his earlier films. Surprisingly, Mark Wahlberg, in a more 'straight arrow' variation of his character in "The Departed", has little to do, and is completely upstaged by the flashier Phoenix, as well as by his Russian counterparts, the kindly father figure with a secret life (Moni Moshonov), and his ruthless drug lord nephew (Alex Veadov).
The film starts promisingly, with a flashy vision of Manhattan club life of the late 80s, run by the Russians, who are taking control of drug trafficking, and hold the NYPD in contempt and disregard, juxtaposed against the simpler, traditional world of New York's Finest, celebrating achievement, duty, and service to others. Phoenix, as the 'adopted' son of the Russians, and the actual son of a cop, is at the nexus of what might have been great drama, as he straddles both worlds. Yet when the film's first major climax occurs, the opportunity is lost, as he makes a decision that channels the film along a predictable path that offers few surprises.
Still entertaining, but far less than it might have been, "We Own the Night" is a good film that could have been great...