A gritty cop thriller set in drug-fuelled 1980s New York, 'We Own the Night' boasts a superb cast, strong characters and some great action but is ultimately flawed in pace and plot.
Robert Green (Phoenix) is a manager of a Brooklyn night-club who has changed his name and hidden his heroic New York police family roots. Warmly welcomed into Russian club owner’s Marat Buzhayev’s (Moshonov) family, Green is treated like a son.
However, when the police try to take down one of Marat’s nephews, a big-time drug dealer, Robert becomes caught in the middle of these two families. The ensuing battle forces him to wake up from his world of partying and probe his loyalty.
The cast, which also includes Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall and Eva Mendes, are strong and mesmerising on screen. However, they carry a wandering plot, which is not as clever as it thinks.
The storyline has the potential to be slick and surprising, however the unintentional stupidity of cops and dealers in their bids to outsmart each other is staggering.
Perhaps the ‘twists’ have been seen in too many other films before. The action scenes, such as car chases and shootouts, have their gripping moments but are let down by their slow pace and lack of originality.
The emotional journey of this film and these characters is strong overall. It gives an insight into how men connect with each other and evolve emotionally.
The development of Robert’s relationships with his father and with Marat, delicately examines issues of pride, rebellion, loyalty, paternal love and family heritage.
The disintegration of Robert’s romance with Amada (Mendes), offers an insight into how lovers lose each other. However, these relationships are not developed enough to give them the depth that is needed.
This film loses itself somewhere along the winding road it brings the viewer. Perhaps it falls into banality by trying to do too much. The film tries to be a cop drama, dark drug thriller, romance, retro-movie and family drama. But it fails to successfully achieve any of these.
It seems this film had all of the ingredients to be brilliant but everything except the acting fell short of this great potential. 'We Own the Night' is an enjoyable crime drama, though ultimately it disappoints when it could have been magnificent.