July 27, 2015 by Liza Lou
I found this DVD in a local shop’s bargain bin for the ridiculous price of 75p. For that price, my thinking was that I had nothing to lose so I bought it blind as it were. I didn’t even bother reading the synopsis, I just saw that it starred Joaquin Phoenix (Walk The Line) and reasoned with myself that that was enough to give it a bash.
I am not a fan of the gangster genre but although We Own The Night fits that at first glance I wouldn’t describe it as such. It isn’t as ‘in your face’ violent as the past gangster films I have witnessed although it definitely has all the ingredients within it’s premise to be one.
The story centres around a nightclub with drugs, cops and gangland mentality all thrown in for good measure. Phoenix plays Bobby Green, a night club manager, who comes from a family of highly reputable police officers. Bobby keeps his business and family separate but the two intertwine over the course of the film leaving him to face dilemmas and ultimately decide which is more important.
It sounds like a ‘paint by numbers’ crime film doesn’t it? And I suppose it is really but what emerges is a neat story line that doesn’t flounder in anyway by sticking to a tried and tested route within it’s genre. The pace is steady and didn’t feel slow at any point. There was enough action to compliment the building up of each character but, for me at least, never too much to take over. Directed by James Gray whole scenes in slow motion sat alongside those that were staggered and quick in action. It’s probably nothing new in all fairness but if something isn’t broke then why fix it? The overall feel of the film is one done very well.
What actually made this film for me was the acting talent of both Phoenix and Robert Duvall (Godfather), who plays Bobby’s father. Again, one could argue that Duvall is comfortable in this form of film and that well may be true. However the chemistry between the two actors is unmissable and incredibly emotional to watch.
Phoenix is stand out, his character is well developed and the moral and emotional roller coaster Bobby Green rides is gripping (and sometimes heartbreaking). I don’t think I’m spoiling too much by saying that they are side changes within the gangland/cop dynamic which put morals into question and pull at the heartstrings. Phoenix’s acting is testament to the way some of these scenes made me feel and he was able to project real torment through the screen. There is a funeral scene that is particulary tragic as well as some tense (and touching moments) with his on screen girlfriend Amada, played by Eva Mendes (Hitch).
The third act and comes with a twist in the tail, and we all know how much I love one of those. This one however I didn’t figure out because for once I was engrossed in a story that I was simply enjoying. With a plot of revenge the film makes you wait for it’s conclusion but pleasantly (and probably why it isn’t overtly gangster in my opinion) there is no huge shoot out or torture gore. Instead the focus remains on Phoenix’s character and made justice an intimate affair.. much better for me.
All in all, I would go far as to say I loved this film and sometimes a bargain really is just that. The 75p DVD now sits proudly on my shelves ready to be watched again and again.