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We Own the Night

2008-03-31 14:06
What it's about:

Set in Brooklyn 1988, the movie documents the bloody feud between ruthless Russian drug peddlers and the Grusinsky family, who represent the NYPD. Bobby (Joaquin Phoenix) is the family rebel who manages a hip nightclub and finds favour with a Russian financier and his family rather than his own kin of law-abiding cops. He operates under his mother's maiden name to hide ties to his cop family (Mark Wahlberg and Robert Duvall). Bobby's hedonistic life is interrupted by police raids at the club, which is really a front for a Russian drug ring. Naturally this leads to a cop/mob clash and Bobby's brother Joseph and his father are marked for execution.

What we thought of it:

Superficially We Own the Night offers up no new twists to the cops versus mob genre, though there's a gritty realism that lends the story some credibility. But writer-director James Gray's work comes across very much as re-hashed Scorsese and lacks the pathos and, in spite of earnest performances, the tension of the recent gem, The Departed.

What is believable is the total lack of appeal of the police force and the values they embody. Joseph and his father, while they are paragons of responsibility, seem to have no dress sense, street sass or fun. The systematic and costly blunders of the police force also show a naivety and stupidity so intense it's hard to imagine wanting to be associated with that world. By contrast the drug imbibed club land Bobby inhabits looks hot and feels fine... until we are exposed to its bloody, dirty underbelly that is.

We Own The Night is both a coming of age and a reconciliation film, but no true winners emerge. Ultimately, the cost of siding with the law and following tradition seem far too high.

- Christina Carstens
A familiar story of cops versus mobsters complicated by family loyalties. Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg play two brothers whose paths place them on conflicting sides of the law. Ultimately blood and righteousness unite them, but at a price.

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