A New York club owner has his club raided by cops one night, the catch is that one of the cops doing the raiding is his own brother. After his brother his sent to the hospital, he takes matters into his own hands to try and catch the ones who did it. His life then is turned upside down, as he must look over his shoulder at every turn, or turn the tables on those after him.
I wasn't all that interested in "We Own The Night". Granted it had a good cast, a competent director and a decent story line, the trailers just never grabbed me. Nevertheless I gave it a try and it is exactly what I thought it would be, a decent film with great acting and good directing. "We Own The Night" is no "Departed", which is what many people will compare this to, as it came out the year prior and bare similar plot scenarios. "We Own The Night" is a decent film that can stand on it's own, but it's lackluster ending and stages where it drags on a bit stop it from being a film that might be remembered years from now.
Bobby is a night club owner and his brother, Joesph is the cop that raids his place. Joesph is after one man and one man only, Vadim. Vadim decides to send this cop a message and has him killed, but Joesph survives the attack. Bobby decides to take matters into his own hands, go undercover and stop Vadim from his drug running. Things don't go as smooth as planned and then we have a big shoot out in the drug building. This scene, along with a unique car chase scene later on, stand out as highlights in a film that is mostly talk. The car chase is unique in it's own right because most of it is done within the car, only briefly going outside to show the viewer where they are headed. It's pouring rain and the one sound that you cannot help but hear it the windshield wipers going back and forth, trying to give us a clear view of what's going on, but it's never clear enough for long.
Bobby is the main character, played by Phoenix with Wahlberg playing the brother, in a more supporting role. Eva Mendes and Robert Duvall round out the rest of the cast, both hold up well with what they have. Surprisingly Mendes, who has a real performance here. She genuinely loves Bobby and doesn't want to see him get hurt. Duvall, the father, always liked the one son more then the other, mostly because the son was following in his footsteps. With the small screen time both characters have, they manage to change drastically. Both in the opposite direction, one grows closer, while the other further apart. Wahlberg does well with his role, he doesn't have any material to work with, other then to be angry here and kind there. This film belongs to Phoenix.
A powerful performance is in the film and Phoenix delivers on every level. Bobby is a complex individual, we never truly know what he is thinking or believes. He is rolling with the bad guys and tells his family to screw off, yet will run to their aid when needed. Phoenix delivers this performance, mainly through his eyes. In one particular scene he is told about his brothers attempted murder and the man telling him is the man who did it. Phoenix plays both sides of the spectrum perfectly well, hiding his true emotions to the other character, yet showing everything to the viewer.
Gray uses light and sound to his advantage here. When one character dies, the main thing we hear is silence, with the exception of the rain hitting the floor. Gray also likes to use hallways, for instance, when Bobby is about to enter the drug operations room. He travels down a dark a brooding hallway, into the darkness he goes, into the danger that lies ahead. The film is never too bright, or too dark, it has mid grays and blues throughout. It's set back in the 70's and this feeling achieved right from the opening pictures.
The final climatic showdown is what brings this film down a notch. A good premise with bad execution is what happened. Two characters are traveling through a marsh field, one is after the other, the suspense is building...then we all of a sudden stop and set the marsh on fire. We are waiting for this one guy to come out and give up, all suspense is gone, but then Bobby decides to go back in, so we are suppose to go back in with him. They've already brought us in and taken us out, now they want us to go back on this journey with them. The second time we enter, the suspense has settled and the scene doesn't last long enough to try and rebuild it. It's over before it begins. Some plot holes also hurt "We Own The Night", like how some people know they are brothers, yet others have no clue. It would seem like someone would have known something beforehand.
All in all "We Own The Night" is a good film, I can recommend it to you. It has great performances, especially from Phoenix and good directing. IF the story was a little tighter and the final ten minutes more suspenseful, "We Own The Night" would be one everyone's top ten list, instead it might have to sit at the next number out. Which is a shame, cause this film is worthy of praise.