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Monday, 3 March 2008

We Own the Night

The year is 1988, and Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) is managing a big-deal nightclub in New Jersey. Everything is going great - until his straight-arrow police captain brother (Mark Wahlberg) starts raiding the club trying to flush out the drug dealers that are hanging out there. Bobby isn't exactly close to the law and order side of the family even before his police chief father (Robert Duvall) starts warning him that he's going to have to choose a side. But when the drug dealers start to strike back he realises that neither side is messing around, and being out in the middle is the most dangerous place to be. With a decent story that's always moving forward and a range of quality performances, this should be at the very least an enjoyable crime saga. Unfortunately, it's the character side of things that lets it down. Populated almost entirely by two-dimensional cliches who aren't the brightest sparks to begin with, they end up being dragged along by the plot, changing from free-wheeling hedonists to driven machines of vengeance at the scriptwriter's whim. If this had been slightly more plot-driven (like the upcoming and far superior Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) the weakness in the characters wouldn't matter so much. But this story is driven by pitting brother against brother, and when they're both hollow caricatures there's not much else to say.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #421)

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