>> We Own the Night (Brandon’s Review, 7/10)

We Own the NightNe’er do well brother Bobby Green/Grusinski (Joaquin Phoenix), the manager of a local Russian owned hotspot (and son of a family of cops) finds himself in a tight spot when a drug raid on his place of business (led by his brother, Johnny (Wahlberg)) earns them the wrath of a drug dealer named Vadim (whose uncle happens to look upon Bobby like a son). When Vadim and his men begin targeting the cops involved in the raid for elimination, whatever tentative allegiances existed between the brothers Gru are solidified by the blood they share. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Hell, it sounds great but…

There are very few things as simultaneously simple and complicated as loyalty which pretty much explains why I feel guilty over my shoulder shrugging reaction to the film. I have no reason to be loyal to James Gray as this is the first film I’ve seen by him but Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg and Robert Duvall are durable, time tested workhorses of the highest order and I do feel loyal to them. Mark Wahlberg can be a pretty effective psychopath when called upon to do so, he’s practically a one-man army and even, at times, a force of nature but this time out as the prodigal (read: generic) son he hardly registers. I understand not every character can be Dignam or Bobby Mercer and sometimes you have to let the show belong to somebody else you could probably do something more than sulk around in your scenes. Robert Duvall gets to do big cliched talk about protecting his sons and being proud of them but he also falls into the “and a special appearance by…” void that Wahlberg seems to fall into. Only Joaquin Phoenix rises above the fray in this one, he’s quietly intense and nervous and he is even at the center of the film’s best visual moments.

Gray has a couple of extraordinary visual moment of storytelling, a smoke shrouded field where the film ends finds Bobby brandishing a shotgun as he searches for Vadim and as he walks through the smoke after the climax, he looks like a cowboy or Charles Bronson. There is also a car chase in the rain where all you can hear is the sound of raindrops and windshield wipers while everything else sounds as if it’s happening from afar, it’s a nice way to get the nerves jangling but Gray doesn’t bring enough of that invention to the table. Everything about the film that works pretty much revovles around Hurricane Joaquin, who infuses something ordinary with a lot of greatness, if everyone else had brought their A game then the desire to own the night could have laid claim to something greater.

7 on a 1 to 10 scale

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