Entries Comments

Movie Review: We Own the Night

We Own the Night
Written and directed by James Gray

We Own the Night is a frustrating film to review.  It’s absolutely maddening.  First off, let me save the suspense: I’m not in any way going to recommend this film.  But there are three action sequences in this movie that are so incredibly well done, I wondered why the hell the rest of the flick couldn’t have been like that.

It’s a messy, unfocused movie with no characters whatsoever to care about, even if they are played by Oscar nominees and winners.  It’s 1988 and Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) is a Brooklyn club manager with a dream of opening a spa in Manhattan and settling down with his main squeeze Amada (Eva Mendes).  He hopes to make this dream come true with a sort of adopted father, Marat Buzhayev (Moni Moshonov), who deals in furs and is associated with main baddie Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov), who deals in drugs.

Bobby’s real family are cops.  Father Burt Grusinsky (Robert Duvall) and brother Joseph (Mark Wahlberg) are cops, and they hope to nail Vadim for his drugs and his cop killing.  Vadim frequents Bobby’s club, and they hope Bobby will turn snitch for them.  He’s reluctant, and thus shortly after Joseph shakes down Vadim in the club, Vadim orders a hit on Joseph.  He is badly injured in the attempt, and Bobby becomes sucked into action.

With his name changed to Green and not associating much with his family or even mentioning it to others, he is able to gain trust from Vadim, who wants to make a big shipment of cocaine and bring him in on the deal.  But someone on the inside is obviously blabbing secrets (this won’t be any surprise to anyone who has seen any of these kinds of movies) about Bobby’s true intentions.

Wahlberg, by necessity of his gunshot wound early in the movie, is absent for nearly an hour before showing back up.  Duvall has to play that tough-love father for most of the picture, to much annoyance, Phoenix is never quite engaging as Bobby, not the kind of guy I would think has lots and lots of friends, and Eva Mendes plays the eye candy I thought she would.  Her function in the plot is not trivial, but she’s not exactly needed.

And then out of nowhere, when all seemed lost and I sat through a murky plot with no interesting characters, three action scenes stand out as the lone reason I’m not totally trashing this movie.  The soundtrack goes silent and the scenes are tense.  I loved all of them, so brilliantly done.  There’s a car chase in the rain with barely audible gunshots and small flashes dotting the cinematography.  Seen from a distance, it’s all the more powerful.

All the more to wonder, what went wrong when it came to making everything else?  This could have been one of the best movies of the year if more attention could have been made to the script.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.