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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: We Own the Night



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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   Scott McAllister

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Posted February 16 2008 - 06:30 AM

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Studio: Columbia Pictures
Year: 2007
Film Length: 117 minutes
Rating: R
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Languages: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $19.99
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Robert Duvall




The Film

Set during the 80’s battles between the Russian mafia and the New York Police, “We Own the Night” zeroes in on one small sub-story rather than tackle the overall situation. Enter Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix), up-and-coming club owner and overall popular on-the-street guy. His nightclub is becoming an ever more attractive venue for the Russian mafia drug trade that is sweeping the city. This is a bittersweet time for Bobby, since as his night spot becomes more in vogue, he must continually strive to hide his family’s long police history, going so far as to change his last name and break ties with them. The only person who knows his true familial connection is Bobby’s girlfriend Amanda Juarez (Eva Mendes).

Bobby’s father Albert Grusinsky (Robert Duvall) is the Deputy Chief of police, and his brother Joseph Grusinsky (Mark Wahlberg) is a rising Captain and member of the cops’ anti-drug squad. When Bobby’s club is raided by Joe and his team, the local Russian mob members strike out for retaliation. Bobby is forced to choose between allowing the Russians to run a major drug smuggling ring through his club or to turn informant for the police and his estranged family.

It’s difficult to expound upon the plot beyond this point as it would ruin many great moments of the film. Suffice to say, the movie is very good and has some great twists in store for the viewer. Out of many well done scenes, the police transportation of a witness across town with the Russians in pursuit is particularly heart racing, as is the movie’s climax.

Picture Quality

I loved the picture of this film, even though it was only a standard-def DVD. The resolution was sharp, but the whole film used a very muted color palette to great effect. You really get the feeling that this is the underbelly New York City’s crime world. It was gritty and personal but the film is not grainy at all, which I find to be relatively impressive.

Audio Quality

As a dialogue-heavy movie, the center channel plays a huge role in conveying the feel the filmmakers intended. There is a soundtrack, but it’s very sparse and only used to reinforce the impact of specific scenes. The LFE channel gets some use here, but not in the areas one would normally expect, like gunfights and car chases. Instead, it’s used to provide a guttural reinforcement to the more dramatic scenes of the film. Case in point, the low frequency heartbeat used while Bobby visits a cocaine lab.

Special Features

Along with the movie itself, the DVD also has several bonus featurettes, as well as a full length commentary with the writer/director James Gray. “Tension: Creating We Own the Night” is a wonderful example of how a behind-the-scenes short can be effective in providing additional information about the film and it’s cast. This featurette gives insight from the actors on how they get into character, their methods for working a scene, as well as the director’s take on his goals for the movie and achieving the right feel for the era.

“Police Action: Filming Cops, Cars, and Chaos” goes into great detail on two of the film’s notable action sequences, giving great detail about the hazards of this type of work, the stuntmen and the camera tricks used to accomplish it.

Finally, “A Moment in Crime: Creating Late 80’s Brooklyn” shares a wealth of data regarding the challenges of re-creating the music, clothing, and ambience of New York during the time period. I found the bit about providing wardrobe for over 300 extras to be rather humorous given the scale of the project.

Summary

At it’s heart “We Own the Night” isn’t really about the drug trade, but rather a story about the bonds of family and the changes that occur in ourselves when somebody we care about hangs in the balance. I was totally sucked in by the performances from all the main actors as they all turn in strong and convincing portrayals. “We Own the Night” is a fine drama and would be at home in anybody’s collection. I give it my full recommendation.

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#2 of 5 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted February 16 2008 - 12:16 PM

Thanks for the review

I have this on pre-order because it still hasn't made it to cinemas in Australia. The film's director James Gray is one of the best contemporary Hollywood filmmakers. His very first film Little Odessa is one of the best films of the 1990s, and his second film The Yards was very good as well. Now that he is out of a restrictive contract with the Weinstein brothers he should be able to make more films more frequently. I believe he is currently shooting another film.

#3 of 5 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted February 16 2008 - 02:28 PM

I just watched this film. It was good enough, though the narrative was rather uneven. It seemed to jump alot. Possibly bad editing decisions. There was also one glaringly obvious plot issue I absolutely couldn't believe. It amazed me that Bobby (Phoenix) went on without turning away from a clearly unreliable friend.

Decent effort, but not exactly successful.

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#4 of 5 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 18 2008 - 10:05 AM

Watched this last night on Blu-ray.

The Blu-ray presentation was fine, which I understand
doesn't help many of you since this is a sDVD review.

My point is that I was extremely immersed in the first 2/3
of the film. However, the final 1/3 is where I completely
understood why this film got so many mixed reviews. There
is such an immense buildup for a terrific final act and
unfortunately everything falls apart by film's end.

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#5 of 5 OFFLINE   Todd Stout

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Posted February 21 2008 - 02:52 PM

Quote:
However, the final 1/3 is where I completely
understood why this film got so many mixed reviews. There
is such an immense buildup for a terrific final act and
unfortunately everything falls apart by film's end.

I was left with a similar feeling about this film. I thought the build up during the first 2/3 was great. I also found that most of the performances were top notch. But...

I don't know about anyone else but hearing Heart of Glass in the opening few minutes tossed my brain into 1978 mode and not 1988 mode. I guess that is nit picking but I would think that a popular club would be playing something a bit more modern than a 10 year old Blondie tune. Isn't 10 years old a bit too new to be retro cool?

I also had a bit of a hard time buying into:
Joaquin Phoenix's character becoming a police officer as easily as he did. I would have had an easier time believing the story if his character simply helped out his brother and the rest of NYPD as a civilian.

Other than those two gripes I enjoyed We Own the Night.