We Own the Night [Blu-ray] (Bilingual) [Import]
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Columbia Pictures We Own The Night (Blu-ray)What if your own family stood in the way of everything you worked for?Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) has forsaken his name to escape his family and their tradition in lawenforcement to pursue his ambitions as a Brooklynnightclub owner. As he turns a blind eye to the drug dealers around him, he comes face to face withthe family he abandoned when his brother (Mark Wahlberg) and father (Robert Duvall) crack down on the club. Now Bobby must choose a side. Is he goingto turn informant or will he help run the biggestcrime ring in New York history?.
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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.
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.
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
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...
I think you can see the conflict here, but wait until the story really gets going. It begins when Buzhayev's nephew, Vadim (Alex Veadov), is suspected of drug trafficking; under Joseph's supervision, the police raid the club and arrest Vadim. This sets into motion a series of events that endanger the Grusinsky family, beginning with Joseph's attempted murder. While Joseph recovers in the hospital, Bobby feels the first pangs of remorse; no, he didn't get along with his family, but he never wanted to see any of them get hurt. For the first time in his life, he actually feels responsible for someone else's misfortune. He channels his pain into a plan of attack, resolving to catch Vadim and have him brought to justice. This can be seen in one of two ways: either Bobby is trying to relieve his own guilt, or he's actually hoping to redeem himself by being selfless. Quite possibly, it's a little bit of both.
But whatever his reasons, it quickly becomes clear that catching Vadim will not be so easy. Through a sting-gone-wrong, he learns of Bobby's involvement with the NYPD, meaning that Bobby is now forced to go into hiding. So is his girlfriend, Amada (Eva Mendes), the only person Bobby trusts with his family secrets. She clearly loves him, but she also finds it difficult to move from motel to motel and to avoid any contact with her mother. They're both trapped, but Amada has it worse simply because she's a victim of circumstance. Bobby, on the other hand, got himself into this situation, first when he refused to help the police keep tabs on Vadim, second when willingly chose to help the police. I don't know whether or not we're supposed to feel sorry for Bobby--that depends on what the viewer believes. But I do know that, as reckless as he was, he's at least trying to make a difference. Surely something can be said for that.
But maybe it isn't enough. "We Own the Night" presents a number of complicated, believable issues that are properly introduced but not entirely developed. The tension between the Grusinskys is understandable, given Bobby's rebellious behavior. But in any troubled relationship, behavior is only part of the problem. As fascinating as these characters were, I just know that they could have been much more realistic if given the chance--with just a little more development, they could have been deeper, more meaningful, more complex. I recognized Bobby's drive to right his wrongs, and while that aspect of the story is fairly unoriginal, I still appreciated it. But something more was needed, something solid enough to be realistic yet flexible enough to be entertaining. This film remains stuck in an area between the two, an area bogged down by routine material.
But at the very least, it does the best it can with that material, and ultimately accomplishes what it set out to accomplish. I did believe in these characters, and I definitely found their story interesting. More significantly, I longed for some kind of resolution, which I'm sure is what the filmmakers were hoping for. Beneath the violence, the hurtful words, and the hard feelings, there is an air of hope to this story. We want everything to turn out okay, simply because Bobby and Joseph are family, and family should always stick together. Or at least, they should in this kind of film.
As flawed as this movie is, it's still worth recommending. "We Own the Night" is a police drama about taking responsibility, whether it's for your own actions or for someone else's well being. I'm not naïve enough to think that this message is new. Obviously, it isn't. But I am easy-going enough to believe that it still works. And while the characters aren't as developed as they should be, there's still enough to keep them from being flat, shallow, and uninteresting. I could sense how badly this film wanted to connect with its audience; the plot was in a perpetual state of building, working itself up to an ending that would be both expected and appropriate. Generally speaking, it succeeded--the final lines of dialogue express what should have been expressed from the very start, which is not only satisfying, but necessary, as well.
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