Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Robert Duvall, and Eva Mendez
James Gray, the talented director behind the internationally acclaimed Little Odessa (1994), lays down the law in We Own The Night, a gripping tale of one family torn apart by career differences. Gray’s second film directing Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix, The Yards (2000), it often reminds you much of the Barry Levinson style, and I can see the influences Levinson may have had on Gray, as they both seemed to often, but not too often, favor the use of their hometown’s as backdrops. Martin Scorsese does the same thing. The last of Barry Levinson’s “Baltimore Trilogy”, AVALON (1990) came four years before Gray’s “Odessa” and much as Levinson decided to keep to the streets he new best, so does Gray. If you’re going to have an influence in this industry and choose to maintain the flavors that echo of a hometown narrative than Barry Levinson wouldn’t be a bad choice. One way or the other James Gray is definitely on the road to a brightly lit future. PhilmClips
As Burt Grusinsky (Duvall) proudly watches his son Joe (Wahlberg) climb the ranks within their hometown Queens, NY police department, so must he watch his younger son, Bobby (Phoenix), climb the ranks within the Russian mob owned nightclub, El Caribe. It’s a haven for drugs, a magnet for trouble, and a priority on Joe’s list of places that need to be cleaned up. Joe’s attempt to summon his young brother, the El Caribe nightclub manager, to act as an informant is no easy task and a favor Bobby isn’t all that comfortable with. Life is good for him, his future looks promising, and with his beautiful girlfriend Amada (Mendes) by his side, he couldn’t be happier. Not accepting his civic duty to get involved and avoiding all conflicts of interest, Bobby leaves Joe and the police department to handle their situation themselves. Commited to bringing down Vadim, a Russian heroin smuggler, Joe raids the El Caribe, shakes down the customers and lands Vadim and his brother Bobby in jail. The family ties are beginning to unravel as Joe’s sense of duty and community responsibility directly clash with Bobby’s career and lifestyle.
Bobby reconsiders his situation upon the abrupt shooting of his brother. A measure no doubt considered a professional act of retaliation. With his brother in the hospital, Bobby now has to reconsider his allegiance to his career, and choose lifestyle or family. When he finds out for certain that the gunning down of his brother was connected to Vadim, and that his father was also on a hit list of people interrupting their drug trade, Bobby realizes his judgement has flaws and offers his services to his family, the police department. When things go awry, and their attempt to bring down Vadim are thwarted, Bobby now is in a race to protect his father, his girlfriend, and himself.
I liked the way this movie was layed out. Simplistic but effective. Simple in that it was a typical story script. Introduce the characters by page 10, and the story by page 25. Sure, I can say that it was predictable but when you’ve seen as many movies as I have…what movie isn’t. The effectiveness of this movie was that I was so caught up in the characters that I didn’t find the time to predict the movie. Gray’s challenge was to show the not-to-subtle differences between a father and his two sons. One son, the favored, is a newly promoted Captain with a sense of community, and the other a reckless nightclub manager with only a sense of self. Only when you show such differences in character can you not only notice, but appreciate, the changes they’ll manifest throughout the course of the movie. Bobby had a better relationship with the owner of the El Caribe and the careless drug addled patrons than with his own father and brother. A relationship clouded by his work not by his lack of love for them. In the beginning of this movie he is forced to choose. This is the storytelling aspect I loved the most about this movie. Many movies disregard the importance of character relationships, and the impact they have on the viewers. If they care, we care. They did, and so did I.
In the end I will say this movie is viewable…and re-viewable. It’s sexy, thrilling, action packed, credible, and a far cry from the rest of your cop movies. The focus isn’t on the shooting of, or the killing of. The focus is on family. One family of cops, one family of crime, and a brother in between. Hope you enjoyed this review.