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</script></div>{/googleAds}The cops and robbers genre is something of a regular staple throughout cinema history. As each decade passes there's always an approach that becomes the thing to do of that era. The 70's went gritty, delivering anti-hero cops; the 80's reigned supreme with the ‘Buddy Cop' pick; the 90's delivered a classic in Michael Mann's ‘Heat'. But this first decade of a new century has seen something of a lull, with all the Superhero and Fantasy films dominating the multiplexes, and so there hasn't really been a pattern for the ‘Noughties' cop entries...

We Own The Night decides on an understated approach, grounded the story around the lives of a family. The main character, Bobby (Joaquin Phoenix), is something of a Black Sheep in a family of cops - one being his father (Robert Duvall); the other his older brother (Mark Wahlberg). This situation comes to a head when Bobby finds himself smack bang in the middle of a war between Russian drug lords (people he's unwittingly tied to through his nightclub) and the NYPD. After his older brother is shot, Bobby find himself at odds with the life he thought he wanted, including his gorgeous girl Amanda (Eva Mendes), and embracing the life he always shunned. Further tragedy leads Bobby to proactively help take down those he use to admire... but although he deems it the right thing to do, it comes with a high price.

The story is solid, but not particularly meaty, and the point of setting it in the 80's is lost on this reviewer. The main premise of Bobby being stuck between two worlds, before making a choice, is weakened by the fact the character is not stuck at all. While the shooting of his brother is credible enough a reason for him to flip, it's not particularly interesting or new. An understated story that is going to rely more on character than spectacle is going to have to come at you with a strong hook, and this isn't strong enough. The villains, the girlfriend, the father all these elements of the script are not taken full advantage of. With some tweaking, a truly nail biting story full of claustrophobia and paranoia could have unfolded, but instead nearly everything about this script is understated and subsequently comes across as merely an okay story to follow.

Director James Gray adds more panache to the visuals than the story, and this is the major appeal of the film. Production design is also another lure to stick with it, and delivers an impressively varied and textured cross-section of New York landscapes and architecture. The score lends itself to the 70's era with a lot of quiet in moments of action, making its entry effective and evocative when it does show. The performances are first rate, but don't rise above the competency one would expect from these people their characters just aren't that interesting, and it plays like most of the actors (especially Duvall and Mendes) know it.

This film seems to follow a common complaint among contemporary offerings of late, in that its sum doesn't live up to its parts. The intentional method of understatement, while understandable, seems to be the main contributor in sucking any spark out of the picture there might have been. This is a well made film, competently acted, well shot, with talented people... that just doesn't get you where it wants to.


DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; commentary with writer and director James Gray; featurettes; trailers.

* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with writer/director James Gray
* Featurettes
o Tension: Creating We Own the Night (15:13)
o Police Action: Filming Cops, Cars and Chaos (10:20)
o A Moment in Crime: Creating Late 80's Brooklyn (08:58)
* Trailers: for Vantage Point, 21, 30 Days of Night, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Across the Universe, Damages: The Complete First Season, Revolver, Southland Tales, Sleuth, Revenge, Donnie Brasco, Taxi Driver and Steep

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging