Leo is released from prison after serving time for car theft. His plan to go straight falls apart when he meets his corrupt uncle for a job and later an old friend working there. It culminates at the (railroad) yards.
1921. An innocent immigrant woman is tricked into a life of burlesque and vaudeville until a dazzling magician tries to save her and reunite her with her sister who is being held in the confines of Ellis Island.
Brooklyn, 1988. Crime is rife, especially drugs and drug violence. A Russian thug is building his heroin trade, while everyone laughs at the cops. Brothers have chosen different paths: Joe has followed his father Bert into New York's Finest; he's a rising star. Bobby, who uses his mother's maiden name, manages a club. Bobby too is on the rise: he has a new girlfriend and a green-light to develop a Manhattan club. Joe and Bert ask him to help with intelligence gathering; he declines. Then, Joe raids Bobby's club to arrest the Russian. From there, things spiral out of control: the Russian puts out a hit on Joe, personal losses mount, and Bobby's loyalties face the test.Written by
A Little Bit of Soap
Written by Bert Berns (as Bert Russell Berns)
Performed by The Jarmels
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under license from EMI Film & Television Music See more »
Solid and engaging if a bit too sombre for its own good
The Grusinsky family is a family of cops, father Bert is Deputy Chief and son Joe is Captain. However son Bobby has shunned this side of the family and, to Bert's chagrin, is using his mother's maiden name and is running a club in Brooklyn, mixing with those who see the police as a joke and the city as theirs. As a result the family is split, with neither willing to see the others' point of view. When Joe leads a raid on Booby's club and picks up several men of a high-profile Russian mobster the outcome is bloodshed - with a hit put out on Joe. With the Russians unaware of the family connection, Bobby must decide who he stands with and the risks he is willing to take for his family.
We Own the Night came and went in the cinemas over here and struck me as being one of those thrillers that gets made that is solid enough to watch but not remarkable enough to do really well. This was enough to make me check it out anyway though and it turned out to be pretty much what it appeared to be in the overview. This is no bad thing though because a solid thriller is still a solid thriller and sometimes that is a welcome relief from all the noisy, superficial blockbusters handed to us week in, week out. Set in the 1980's, the film does recall the cop thrillers of the 1970's to a certain point and it does feel like an old fashioned film in terms of the characters and the way it is shot and the rather grey and oppressive feel to the city of the time does lend itself to the narrative.
It's not a film of gripping tension though. There are several really well done scenes that are unbearably tragic and tense (the shoot-out between cars is particularly good) but mostly the film takes a slower pace that focuses on the characters. It is a good direction to go but the problem is that Gray allows it all to get just that bit too sombre and heavy and it does have an impact on the film in regards slowing it down somewhat. This seems to have been passed onto the cast as well, who are generally restrained in their emotions - again not a massive criticism but it does feel a bit like all these factors are weighing down the film to a certain extent. Phoenix impresses despite this and he does convince in his character even if he himself comes over like he has a weight on his shoulders that is crushing him; I get that that is part of his character but again it adds this sense of slowness to proceedings. Wahlberg is underused and has too little time and opportunity to make the most of his character - he is very much a supporting player. Duvall is better because his presence adds more and the lack of time doesn't take away from him as he does what he has to do. I enjoyed seeing Mendes doing more than being her usual foxy and a bit playful self - trust me, I do love her in that mode but she is capable of more. Gray and his cinematographer provide style when it matters but I think he is mostly responsible for the rather heavy feel to the entire film and it does rather suck the energy out of the film.
I'm not suggesting that this film should have been zingy and "fun" but just that it is sombre to the point of being a bit too much like hard work at times. In terms of content, characters and themes I found that it all worked but that this sense of weight did affect it. Still a solid film that is dramatically satisfying in an old fashioned way but these issues do prevent it being as memorable as it could have been.
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