He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

By Stephanie Mamayson

Brothers fight. It’s a fact of life. But when drugs, guns and angry Russians are involved, that’s another level entirely. Now it’s time for daddy to get involved. We Own the Night is a story about loyalty, fate and the lengths people go to for family, an allegorical throwback to the Greek, Shakespearean and Biblical tales that the filmmakers hope have stood the test of time.

The film takes place in New York City at a time when drugs and crime are rampant in the streets, forcing the police to wage an all-out war against the guilty. Bobby Green (played by a passionate Joaquin Phoenix) is the manager of the bumpin’ night club, El Caribe. Compared to the regular clientele that frequent the popular hotspot, Bobby is fairly clean, limiting himself to the occasional hit here and there. The club’s Russian owner, Marat Buzhayev, serves as a surrogate father for Green, welcoming him into his family. But no place is free from crime these days and the fight spills onto El Caribe dance floors.

One night, the NYPD raid the club, placing patrons and workers alike into custody. After being force-fed charcoal and thrown in jail, Bobby is face-to-face with the secret he’s hid while rubbing elbows with El Caribe’s more questionable customers: his family. Bobby’s brother, Joseph (Mark Wahlberg) has recently been promoted to captain and is heading up the street crimes division along with police chief and the boys’ father, Burt (Robert Duvall). In a macho, testosterone-driven showdown, the brothers throw punches and verbal attacks and it is evident that the two worlds Bobby has fought to keep separate will soon collide. However, things start to get dangerously personal. With Joseph in the hospital after an attempted murder and his father being the next potential target, Bobby must finally choose a side. Taking up his family’s cause, Bobby fights the good fight, losing the things he once held dear.

This film makes no apologies for what it is, the all too familiar story of fate and family, never really delving deeper than that. The cops are brisk and detached, the typical police officer stereotype. The club-goers are expectedly raunchy and sexy, especially Eva Mendes, who plays Bobby’s Puerto Rican girlfriend, Amada. But the actors do what they can with the cliche and do so with raw, unabashed emotion that makes this film bearable to watch.

In the beginning, audiences are baited into thinking that this movie will be as dirty and thrilling as Bobby and Amada’s steamy opening scene. However, We Own the Night never really pushes past the in-your-face storyline, which is unfortunate because that extra step could have allowed this film and its ensemble cast to garner more than just an apathetic pass.


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