They Almost Own the Night
My opinion is as divided as the two brothers at the centre of "We Own the Night", I like it and I want to love it but there is something about the movie which doesn't quite do it for me. Maybe it's familiarity because the storyline of two divided brothers is not that new, maybe its the dialogue which at times feels too sparse or maybe it's just the fact that whilst confidently directed it lacks a little bit more style to lift it up to be special. But there is just something or in fact a lack of something which left me entertained but also a little disappointed.
Having followed his father Burt (Robert Duvall) in a career in law enforcement, Joseph Grusinsky (Mark Wahlberg - Shooter) is the rising star of the New York Police force. Meanwhile his brother Bobby (Joaquin Phoenix - Walk the Line) has chosen a different path, running a popular nightclub for a Russian family and turning a blind eye to any activity which could cause him grief. With Joseph leading a crack down on narcotics he asks Bobby to inform on a Russian who is dealing out of the club but with there being a history of issues between brothers Bobby refuses. But when Joseph raids the club things spiral out of control and forces Bobby to consider where his allegiance lies.
At its heart "We Own the Night" follows a familiar story where we have two brothers at different ends of the spectrum; Joseph has followed his dad in to the police force whilst Bobby runs a night club for a Russian businessman. They don't get on and when Joseph wants Bobby to inform on the activity of the Russian's nephew things get uncomfortable between them. It is not a new idea but works well within the movie because both Bobby and Joseph are believable, you can sense the animosity between them and the sort of stubbornness to not do what the other wants.
What happens after that is also not that original as events lead Bobby to end up helping the police and in doing so brings him and his girlfriend into danger forcing him to change sides. In a way the storyline works and for those who haven't seen any of the numerous other movies which follow this divided loyalty storyline will be impressed. They will be impressed by how Bobby changes and what happens during the final third of the movie although to be honest it all seems a little contrived to me.
But the thing is that in reality "We Own the Night" is solid, it is well directed, well paced, there is no over snappy editing and the action is not just random gun fire. The way the storyline develops is also solid as are the way the relationships between Bobby, Joseph and their father Burt also progress. And whilst the final third feels a bit too contrived and too perfect in delivering moral closure it is solid rather than weak. But it just feels solid, it lacks that little bit of style, that little bit more character history and that little something which makes you want to watch it again. I suppose in a way what I am saying is that it is lacking that little bit extra which Scorsese gives his movies and "We Own the Night" does feel a bit like a Scorsese style story.
Whilst it does leave me with a sense of wanting the actual performances certainly are more than solid. Robert Duvall is as great as ever as Burt as he is proud of Joseph but fears for Bobby as he ignores the warnings over the trouble coming his way. Mark Wahlberg is just as good as Joseph, a restrained performance but one which gets across the animosity he feels for his brother. But both are out shone by Joaquin Phoenix as he delivers the charm and confidence of the night club manager but also the heart and fear and the need for revenge as he is drawn into the mess and things spiral out of control.
What this all boils down to is that "We Own the Night" is a solid take on the crime story with two divided brothers. But whilst it is solid it is lacking that little bit extra which makes you want to watch it again.