Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We Own The Night. Out now. (******6/10)

We Own the Night is decent, but not great. Gene Siskel used to say that a movie with great actors was only good if you would rather watch that movie than watch those same actors eat lunch. (Which is the big failing of the Ocean's Twelve-Thirteen-through-Seventy-six series of films.) And I would certainly like to watch Joaquin Phoenix, Robert Duvall and Mark Wahlberg have a spirited conversation over lunch. Only slightly more would I like to watch this movie again. Now, usually that's an analogy used for vanity pictures, like that Ocean's series. Which I keep referencing for some reason. Either because I just watched The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, or because I have a poster of George Clooney in a wet T-Shirt looking down on me from above my computer. Boy, he's dreamy.

The thing is, I can't decide whether We Own the Night is a vanity picture or not. It seems like one, especially for Wahlberg and Phoenix, who seem to have played these characters many times before. They are brothers, Wahlberg a cop and Phoenix a night club owner. Duvall is their father, the chief of police. When Duvall and Wahlberg approach Phoenix to help them with some information that could lead to a major drug bust, he refuses to help. He wants to distance himself from the police life that is his family. So much so that he no longer goes by his family name, having chosen to use his mother's name after her death. Wahlberg and his unit stage a raid on the bar, during which his brother is arrested. The cops are trying to nail a particularly unpleasant dealer named Vadim. Afterward, Wahlberg is attacked and almost killed by Vadim, who then tells Phoenix all about it - they have different last names, see, and this dealer does not know they are related. Then a bunch of stuff happens, brothers fighting brothers, brothers loving brothers, brothers sticking by their father, father sacrificing for the brothers...all kind of family stuff that sort of rings hollow.

The movie flows fine, the story works decently, and the performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg and Robert Duvall are pretty good. But that's about it. The supporting cast is not great. Eva Mendes, as Phoienix's girlfriend, is mostly useless, except as someone who can get upset at his actions. The bad-guy drug dealer is barely seen, barely in the movie, and certainly does not give off a sense of dread or of being dangerous. Except for his very long Steven Seagal-type pony tail. That means drug lord. Anyone with a pony tail is a drug lord. Or Steven Seagal. Or into aromatherapy. Whatever. In the end, there is not much to recommend this movie. And there is not much to say against it. So it's just plain not much of a movie.

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