We Own the Night review, We Own the Night DVD review
Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes
James Gray
We Own the Night

Reviewed by David Medsker



he person responsible for cutting the trailer to “We Own the Night” should get an award of some kind. That trailer is rife with high drama, while the movie from which those 30 seconds of film were culled is rather dull. It’s not that it’s done poorly – though this kind of movie has definitely been done better – but rather that there is nothing here that you haven’t seen before. And when we say nothing, we mean nothing. At all.

The movie, set in 1988, stars Joaquin Phoenix as Bobby Green, the fast-living manager of a Brooklyn night club. What none of Bobby’s coke-happy friends knows, with the exception of his girlfriend Amada (Eva Mendes), is that Bobby’s estranged brother Joe (Mark Wahlberg) and father Burt (Robert Duvall) are policemen, something Joe and Burt try to use to their advantage when they discover that a frequent patron of Bobby’s bar, Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov), is a big-time drug dealer. They want Bobby to gather intel for them, but Bobby is reluctant to do so because Vadim is the night club owner’s nephew. The police raid the club, and soon after an attempt is made on Joe’s life, forcing Bobby to take sides between his family and his career once and for all.

There are a dozen shades of gray to be had in a story like this, but the approach that “We Own the Night” takes is pretty black and white. Since Bobby is merely the manager of the bar and not at all involved with any illegal dealings that may be taking place there, he is not morally compromised in the same manner as, say, Johnny Depp in “Donnie Brasco.” Bobby’s choices, which the movie pretends are tough, are actually rather simple, which leaves you with a story that seems to think that there is drama in the obvious. There isn’t, and it wastes some formidable talent in the process.

One wonders if writer/director James Gray turned in a racier version of “We Own the Night” – the movie’s opening scene, which features a scantily clad Mendes fondling herself, is far friskier than anything that follows – only to be browbeaten by a skittish studio into toning things down during the shoot. That would certainly explain a lot, since it is hard to believe that any studio would back a crime drama as toothless as this.

Single-Disc DVD Review:

After bombing so badly at the box office, Sony had very little incentive to put out a DVD that was worth your time and money. Nevertheless, the included special features actually offer a valid reason to check this out on DVD – namely that the movie isn’t quite as bad as you might have heard. Headlining the list of bonus material, the audio commentary with writer/director James Gray is actually the weakest addition to the disc. Not only does Gray sound like he’s reading from cue cards, but his attempts at impersonating guys like Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix are downright embarrassing. Still, the rest of the extras help smooth over the awkwardness, including a 15-minute making-of featurette (“Tension”), a stunt featurette on the car chase and drug raid sequences, and a production design featurette on re-creating 1980s New York (“A Moment in Crime”).

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