50/50 Review #32: We Own The Night.

I always felt this was kind of the odd duck in James' Month.  In a month of what is essentially classics of various genres, we have a 2007 crime drama with Mark Wahlberg. But I rolled with it. The film follows a night club owner named Bobby (Joaquin Phoenix), who tries to keep his personal and professional lives separate. The illegal drug deeds going on at his club, for instance, wouldn't go over too well with his police chief father, Burt (Robert Duvall), or his rising star police officer brother, Joseph (Mark Wahlberg). In fact, the only person that knows his police ties is his girlfriend, Amada (Eva Mendes). But when his two lives start to collide and his family is threatened, Bobby has to make some tough decisions that will impact his life forever.

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'


  1. It would've been really awesome if James gave you all these old classic movies....then like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3: Leatherface".

  2. Looking back, I'm not quite sure I gave you this one either. James Gray is one of my favorite working American directors, so maybe I just wanted to give him more exposure and also thrown something a bit more modern in there instead of giving you only classics.

    I can see where the film cuts some corners and needs to take some time to flesh things out, but, to me, this is the kind of Crime film I wish we saw more of. It's much more quiet and introspective and personable, at least to me, than a lot of the "classic" crime movies that I honestly don't care about at all. So yea, I picked this because I'm a contrarian.

    1. It is a well done crime film. Looking at it stylistically alone, it succeeds rather well. Again, that car chase scene is just phenomenal.


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