I can safely say I was pleasantly surprised with this movie. I honestly knew almost nothing about it going in except the cast, and the story really captivated me. The idea that Bobby would have to infiltrate what is essentially his second family all while simultaneously conflicting with his blood family was great. The lengths Bobby has to go and the toil it puts on him and weighs him down was fascinating to watch. And I don't say this often, but... at just shy of 2 hours, I honestly think it could have used another 15-20 minutes at least.
You're going to think I'm strange for saying this, but honestly... the film's biggest problem was that it needed more Mark Wahlberg. It's not because he was so fantastic in the film... it's more like he was barely in it. Honestly, the only characters that were built were the ones played by Joaquin Phoenix and maybe Robert Duvall. You get maybe a couple scenes before Wahlberg leaves the film for probably an hour or more, and then only a couple more scenes until the big climax after that. I would have liked to see more of the brotherly conflict between the two and how this case was really messing with both their heads and their relationship with each other. And then by the end, you're supposed to feel for the guy when a shootout happens, but there hasn't been much build-up for the psychology of the the character for me to care or grasp it. And then there's Eva Mendes, who they try to build up a little, but she's mainly just background fodder to give Joaquin something else to worry about. By the time the big emotional scene between them happens, I don't have much of an emotional connection with her, either.
But when this flick does things right, it really does them right. In fact, I'd say this movie has some strokes of genius scattered throughout. James mentioned there's a brief shot of Eva Mendes in this movie that's one of his favorite shots of the last 10 years. And without telling me which one, I can safely assume I know which he's talking about. And then there's my favorite scene in the movie. There's a car chase in the rain about halfway in. There's no music, and in fact, most of the sound is slightly muted. The majority of the scene happens from the perspective of inside one of the cars (only occasionally showing the outside). It's a hard scene to explain, but it's so masterfully shot and edited that I think it easily belongs in any Top 10 Car Chase list.
It's not a perfect movie, but it's a really good one. The acting is really good, particularly from Joaquin Phoenix and Robert Duvall. The fact that this film seems to have flown under so many radars is kind of surprising to me. The idea is a great one, and despite the need for a little more character development on certain characters, it was pulled off pretty well. But if the story doesn't sound interesting to you, you should at least see it for the car chase scene, as it's worth watching just for that.
A Keanu 'Whoa'