We Own The Night

We Own The Night

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) is a happy go lucky nightclub manager, drinking, gambling, dressing like Quentin Tarantino, having a good time with his adoring girlfriend Amada (Eva Mendes) and looking forward to the still brighter prospects offered by his elderly Russian boss.

The future's so bright that he's blind to what's going on around him in there here and now. A little bit of drug dealing going on in the corner can't hurt, can it? The trouble is that, just outside the door, a brutal gang war is going on. And to make matters worse, Bobby's father and brother are among those police officers who are fighting it.

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We Own The Night (the title taken from the motto of the New York City cops) sets up a fairly straightforward tale of a man caught between two worlds, but then undercuts it with a much more complex dynamic about family loyalties and the difficulty which family members can have in dealing with their feelings for each other. It's a brave mix of gruesome violence with fragile sentiment, and it won't work for everyone. Many of those who go along to see a gang movie will find the emotional aspects of the film uncomfortable or even funny, but this is a tale which rewards the intelligent viewer and, ultimately, has much more to say for itself than the average crime thriller. Which is a good thing, since, after all, it's not the only friendly-Russian-businessman-with-corrupt-psycho-nephew movie on the block just now.

Whilst he'd be hard put to compete with Cronenburg, relative newcomer James Gray acquits himself well at the helm, giving us stylish images which never detract from the flow of the action.

He benefits from a strong cast. Phoenix is reliable as ever, though he's not really stretching himself here. Wahlberg turns in a subtler performance than usual, working surprisingly well as the brother who undergoes a dramatic change, and Eva Mendes is excellent as Bobby's girlfriend, turning what could have been a bland sidekick role into something which really helps us to care about all the characters.

The main thrust of the plot is really quite simple and there are few surprises along the way, but the plot isn't really the point - as an exploration of how characters develop under pressure in this volatile environment, We Own The Night is very impressive. It's this factor which will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Reviewed on: 05 Dec 2007
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We Own The Night packshot
A nightclub manager is caught between his relatives in the police force and his contacts in the Russian mafia.
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Director: James Gray

Writer: James Gray

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Eva Mendes, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Alex Veadov, Dominic Colon, Danny Hoch, Moni Moshonov

Year: 2007

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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