"We Own the Night" certainly has the potential to be a very good movie. The material is similar to that of the Oscar-winner "The Departed," and the cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg and Robert Duvall, three very watchable actors.
Yet this dramatic crime-thriller never lives up to that potential. In fact, it's considerably less than the sum of its parts.
There are too many squandered opportunities and too many exploitative moments in this overblown, melodramatic feature. And that wasted potential makes "We Own the Night" a frustrating experience.
Screenwriter/director James Gray's tale is set in late-'80s New York City and follows members of the Grusinsky family, which boasts several generations of law-enforcement officers. The one notable exception is estranged, black sheep son Bobby (Phoenix), who's going by the last name Green.
Bobby manages a popular Brooklyn nightclub owned by a Russian furrier an organization steeped in the drug trade. Bobby's brother Joe (Wahlberg) warns him that the club is about to be raided; Joe and his fellow cops are hoping to nab drug lord Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov).
Bobby is unwilling to get involved or help them. But that all changes when one of Vadim's men shoots Joe and leaves him for dead. The guilt-ridden Bobby agrees to help nail Vadim something that may also earn him a chance for redemption with his police-chief father (Duvall).
Most of the film's problems have to do with Gray's uninspired, workmanlike direction. A car chase and shootout sequence in the rain should be thrilling but never really engage our interest.
Also, the characters feel a little underdeveloped and one-note although the efforts of Phoenix, Wahlberg and Duvall nearly overcome that deficit.
"We Own the Night" is rated R for strong scenes of violent action (shootings, stabbings, brawling, beatings and vehicular mayhem), strong sexual language (profanity, crude slang terms and other suggestive talk), strong drug content (cocaine and marijuana use and references), simulated sex and other sexual contact, some graphic gore, female nudity, slurs based on nationality and sexual preference, and a scene of interrogation. Running time: 116 minutes.