Ken's Review: We Own the Night - A Very Forgettable Film
by Ken Evans
October 16, 2007
I have a hard time writing reviews for films like this - films that are not great but at the same time aren't horrible. Unfortunately, last week that seemed to be the running theme for all the films I watched. This one just happened to be the worst of the mediocre movies I screened. I would much rather it be amazing or even horrid, then at least I would be able to recommend it if it's a wonderful film or steer people away from seeing it if it's a total waste of time. With a movie like this I have found myself so completely indifferent to the whole experience.
We Own the Night follows the story of Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) who runs a night club in 1988 New York. We find out early on that Bobby Green is really Bobby Grusinsky, son of Deputy Chief Burt Grusinsky (Robert Duvall). Not only is Bobby's father a cop but so is his brother: Police Lieutenant Joseph Grusinsky (Mark Wahlberg). Bobby keeps this family history to himself because the kind of people who frequent the night club he manages don't take kindly to the police. Bobby's brother, Joseph, has just been put in charge of the drug unit commissioned to bring down an underground drug-trafficking ring. Almost as soon as this unit is formed, an attack is made on Joseph's life. Bobby becomes upset and decides to try and help bring his brother's attackers to justice by joining forces with the police.
There is more to the plot, but I don't want to spoil the few surprises in the film that actually made it worth sitting through. I wish I could be more positive about this movie because I really wanted it to be good. Robert Duvall is a great actor but just didn't have anything to work with, besides hardly having any screen time. Mark Wahlberg is a fine actor but definitely not amazing. He should stick to action movies because at least in those you don't mind that he is the same in every one. After seeing him in this, I hope he steers clear of drama. To be honest, I didn't think his part in The Departed was worthy of an Oscar nomination.
However, the biggest disappointment was Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin has already proven himself as a substantial actor in films like Gladiator, Signs, The Village, and Walk the Line. We know he can act and put real emotion and passion into his characters. I don't know what happened in We Own the Night, but his character was so dry and boring that I didn't even care. That was the major problem with this film. You just don't care about anyone. People get hurt and people die, but I found myself unmoved. I felt like the audience was expected to care about the characters in the film just because they were related to each other. You have to give me a better reason then that to care about them, especially when they all seem to have a chip on their shoulders.
Even with all the flaws, I still found the movie interesting, although not because of the story or the performances. The history behind it is what I wanted more of; the struggles and obstacles the police must face, and the devotion the NYPD must have to take on the motto: "We Own the Night". Show me a movie with men passionately devoted to a cause in the face of massive hardships, and you can count me in. So, if you go to We Own the Night with high expectations, you will be let down. If you go with low expectations, they will be met. If you're like me, you'll be glad you saw it once but will forget about it the next day as it is unfortunately a very forgettable film.