We Own the Night (2007) BUY IT

The Principals: Joaquin Phoenix. Robert Duvall. Mark Wahlberg. Eva Mendes. Oleg Taktarov! James Gray (who

The Premise: One brother is a nightclub owner with ties to crime. Another brother’s a cop. Their pop is a cop. What do you think’s gonna happen? Tumult! Decisions! Danger! Gunfights!

A weirdly effective villain.

We Own the Night is a film that in fifteen years might qualify for this site’s ‘Through the Cracks’ article series. A muscular and intense mixture of family drama and crime flick, this is the Sidney Lumet film that Sidney Lumet never made. James Gray is one of those directors who makes pretty good little movies that are either missing one ingredient keeping them from being really good or the product of a guy who just operates in his niche and is fine with that. I’m banking on the latter. What he is good at is mining Joaquin Phoenix for very solid performances.

This is a hybrid of an indie New York cop flick and a big studio one, and for the most part it works. There’s a really welcome brutality to it that makes the violence hit hard and there’s a rainy car chase that has no right being effective but turns out being truly numbing and scary. It’s ruthless. It’s surprising. Balanced with the subtle and quiet character stuff in the film and you have a classic case of an ‘almost’ film. One that could have really connected people if it had come out at a different time or been marketed differently or not seemed so damned familiar.

I mean, Pride and Glory was released around the same time and I could how superficially this film would seem generic.

As far as family crime stories go this is a good one. Though Wahlberg doesn’t match Phoenix he holds his own and Duvall has some really nice stuff to do, which is a bonus. He’s done a lot of work in recent where he’s being Robert Duvall and not really pushing himself much. He’s a good fit here and I like his character’s value and role in moving the story along.

And the villain is a normal looking, sort of dopey guy, which is reality. It adds to the legit feel of things and when the violence comes it is concussive and immediate. It helps seal this as a sleeper of a flick.

Is It Good:

Is It Worth A Look: It is, especially if you like these kind of films. The work of Lumet, or even Gray’s earlier stuff Little Odessa and The Yards. It’s not going to make a big impact on anyone but it’s a worthy addition to a seriously crowded genre.

Mark Wahlberg’s expression.

Random Anecdotes:  Oleg Taktarov better be careful, lest he be typecast as a Russian thug who gets killed really violently. See: Bad Boys II. Holy fuck he dies hard. SPOILER: He does not survive We Own the Night.