After bursting onto the American independent film scene when he was just 25 with his debut feature Little Odessa, writer/director James Gray could have been expected to be more prolific. Instead he took some time to make his last film The Yards with Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix. That was seven years ago—and now he has reteamed witih the pair for his third feature, a police drama set in New York in the 1980s.
We Own the Night emerges as a solid if uninspiring piece of cinema with some fine performances from Wahlberg and Phoenix as brothers on opposite sides of the law and Robert Duvall as their deputy police chief father.
At the time the Russian mafia was busy infiltrating drugs into the New York club scene. Bobby Green (Phoenix), an up-and-coming club manager, must hide his family ties to law enforcement from everyone except his girlfriend Amada (Eva Mendes). His brother Joseph (Wahlberg) is a rising star in the NYPD, while his father Burt is an officer of the old school. When the Russians and their kingpin Vadim (Alex Veadov) declare war on the police, Bobby is forced to decide between his life and his family.
The pace may be a shade plodding at times, and the dialogue frequently does disservice to the subject matter. Yet the performances lift it out of the rut, notably Phoenix’s magnetic central turn as the king of a dubious empire who is about to have to confront some home truths about his lifestyle. Also effective is Mendes as a Puerto Rican beauty who stands by her man and charms his associates.
Perhaps it’s time, though, for Queens native Gray to forsake the mean streets of New York for potentially fresher and more stimulating material. —
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes and Robert Duvall
Director/Screenwriter: James Gray
Producers: Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Wechsler and Marc Butan
Rating: R for strong violence, drug material, language, some sexual content and brief nudity
Running time: 105 min.
Release date: October 12, 2007