An entertaining, yet underwhelming, night at the movies...
Andrew Ellington | I'm kind of everywhere | 02/03/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"As a whole I think that `We Own the Night' works, but to be honest, I don't think that I can really call it a good movie. The direction (and more specifically the `tone') of the film is clearly the highlight, and this makes up for a lot of the films more obvious weaknesses. When all was said and done, I have to admit that I was entertained, but reflecting back on the film it is easy to spot all the reasons why this film shouldn't have worked.
The plot, for starters, is rather clichéd. Someone stated that it was unpredictable, but for me it was clear that this film went in a direction that seemed almost forced and generic, especially with regard to Joaquin Phoenix's character. Yes, it was shocking when certain characters wound up wounded or dead, and so that I will give to the writers as something commendable, but the films ending was almost ridiculously clichéd. The story is that of a wayward child (go figure) Bobby, a young man growing up in a house full of cops of defies is upbringing by working at a nightclub where he keeps his family hidden and cohorts with pretty despicable people. When his brother, Joe, winds up working narcotics they have a falling out. Joe wants Bobby to help him nail a drug dealer and Bobby wants Joe to stay away from his club. When certain tragedies befall the family though, Bobby has a change of heart and decides that it is up to him to snuff out this hazardous drug dealer.
The general story is rather basic, but I admit that certain plot points do feel fresh and exciting. My biggest issue here was the acting, to be honest. Robert Duvall doesn't really do anything. He has just a few scenes and none of them are a stretch by any means. Wahlberg can only play ONE character (unless you consider his stunningly diverse role in `I Heart Huckabees'), and while he plays that character well it gets old very fast. I really felt like he had an opportunity to play a comfortable character while evoking some deeper emotional responses with this film, and yet he didn't `go there' for me. It was just a surface Wahlberg performance, just like all the others. I am a fan of Joaquin Phoenix. I think that he has range and talent and while he has some usual ticks that he gives almost all of his performances, you can see that he really challenges himself as an actor. This was not a good challenge for him. He tries WAY TOO HARD. His sullen grumpy approach to the character is just too much and comes off far too unrealistic. I can't really think of one good scene from him, except for maybe the scene where he got arrested and he gives his father this sadistic smile. There was an arrogance that I really liked about that moment, because it gave the impression that he was `understanding his character'...but that moment came and went and Phoenix fell right back into forced emotional distress.
But, I loved Eva Mendes. Like, really...not only was she BEYOND stunning in this film, but she really understood her character and delivered a provocative look at a woman struggling to find the balance in her ever-changing relationship.
Like I said, the direction (or tone) of this film is a saving grace. Even in the final scenes (that smoke out) where things are rather ridiculous ("be patient!") there is a tension that is present that really gets under your skin. It reminded me of the intensity I found in `Gone Baby Gone' (fresh on my mind after a recent review) but thankfully with this particular film the tension to overstay its welcome by continually changing its direction. I can't bring myself to give this anything more than a C+, but that's a highly recommended C+. Regardless of the fact that this film isn't really `good', it is certainly entertaining, and sometimes that is all you need."