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We Own The Night (2007) R 117min

November 5th, 2007 by Maxim · No Comments · 3,344 Views

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3/5

Columbia Pictures’ We Own The NightWriter-director James Gray made a new variation of the same film he had done before: “Little Odessa” and “The Yards”, all about family members on different sides of the law, living in the immigrant communities of New York. The presence of stars-producers Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg (both starred in “Yards”) helps, but since the theme has been explored before by so many directors there’s no place left for innovation.

“We own the night” was a slogan used by NYPD’s street crime unit in the 80s. Apparently the struggle of NYPD with organized crime back then was very hard. NYPD officers were being killed at the rate of two a month. Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) is a manager of a Russian night club in Brighton Beach owned by his mentor Marat Buzhayev (Moni Moshonov), who is very happy with how Bobby manages the club and even considers opening another club in Manhattan. Among other people, the club is popular with Russian gangsters like Buzhayev’s nephew Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov). Bobby’s brother, Police Captain Joseph Grushinsky (Mark Wahlberg) is following his father’s (Deputy Chief Bert Grushinsky played by Robert Duvall) footsteps. The relationship between Bobby and police side of his family is tense. His father tells him plainly that there’s a war going on, and that Bobby will have to chose which side he’s on: the side of the law or the side of the mobsters. His prophecy soon comes true after Joseph is shot in the face in an assassination attempt and Bobby is approached by Vadim Nezhinski to use his restaurant as a distribution center for mafia’s new product. When Bobby discovers that his father can be next on mafia’s assassination list, he can no longer remain neutral and joins forces with his family to fight against Nezhinsky’s organization.

James Gray as a director has succeeded in portraying people under unbelievable stress, fear for their lives, dread. He even shoots the film in blue and gray to convey grimness. He’s great at the stories about families being brought together. He fails to explain though why Bobby did not get along with his family. I assumed he was always a rebel and wanted to do his own thing and his brother wanted to follow his father’s footsteps and guys like Bobby are providing safe heaven, a nest and breeding ground for everything they were fighting with, while in Bobby’s business cops were more of a nuisance.

Many critics said the story is unconvincing and very melodramatic. The truth is that for most people Russian or for that matter any other mafia is just a story, an urban legend. But anyone who had a personal experience described in the movie could completely relate to the characters: I can see how being even within 100 years of the mobsters could be a completely terrifying experience, especially when one is being approached by them to pay protection money or to provide them services. Perhaps the most unconvincing part of the film was that the mob didn’t find out that his family are cops, but he did use a different last name…

Worth mentioning that Eva Mendez played Bobby’s Puerto Rican sexy girlfriend – the only person in the film he seemed to be truly loyal to. Her role here is to be sexy and scared. Her breast was exposed in the beginning of the movie. She’s a doll. She’s just not that good a dramatic actress. She was trying though, I give her that.

Mark Wahlberg is always the same in all movies. He certainly has something charismatic to him, but I am yet to see him play a character who is not a simpleton. Joaquin Phoenix was pretty good, but for the most part his role was to say “I’m f*ed” all the time. Robert Duvall had a supporting role, but he was great and convincing in it. What did you expect I was going to say about him? Overall, acting was solid, but not outstanding.

The car chase scene was awesome! Probably one of the best chase scenes I’ve seen in movies of that genre.

I liked how director played a joke on the audience in the final scene when he did not do what the audience had expected him to do.

Not a bad film, well worth watching in the theatre and paying the ticket price.

p.s.
I was surprised to see Yelena Solovey in this movie in the role of Kalina Buzhayev: she was a very popular film/theatre actress in USSR from 60s to 90s. In fact she was awarded the title of People’s Actor – the highest title an actor can get in Russia. I did not realize she now lives in United States – apparently she teaches acting in New Jersey.

p.p.s.
Kudos to director for using authentic Russian actors. It makes the film more believable. Also scarrier too. There are so many talanted and professional actors here who came to States thinking Hollywood is waiting for them and end up driving taxi or working at the carwash.

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Rated 3/5 on Nov 5 2007
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Tags: Crime/Gangster · Drama · Movies · Thrillers/Suspense

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