Wednesday, February 6, 2008

We Own the Night *1/2

Director: James Gray
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Robert Duvall

How to judge a movie in which Eva Mendes' character is the sanest of the bunch?
During one key scene she points out to her boyfriend why everything he's involved in, is just plain wrong and unnecessary.
Her boyfriend is Bobby (Phoenix) who works as manager in, "El Caribe", a notorious club owned by a Russian mobster (Moni Moshonov) where they only seem to play Blondie songs.
His father , Burt(Duvall), and brother, Joseph (Wahlberg), are policemen, but Bobby has been able to maintain his family connections hidden just by using his mother's maiden name.
Things change, when Joseph is shot after raiding "El Caribe" and Bobby learns that (surprise!) it was the guys he works for.
Bobby has a change of heart and decides to make the family proud by becoming a double agent which makes the film turn into a lazy version of "The Deaprted" with biblical undertones.
Before things turn into a soap opera, which they do in the second half, you are already trying to convince yourself the characters' motivations are sparked by the least amount of coherence.
You never really know why Bobby became estranged from his family and why would he betray the people who treated him so well, even if they are drug dealers and murderers.
While Phoenix is such a good actor that he can convince you of almost anything (see this in an especially good scene where he sheds an unexpected, very Method, tear) you can't help but try and diagnose Bobby with some very serious Oedipal issues.
Duvall's performance seems to be fueled by an awkward patriarchal pride measured by how much his sons risk their lives and Wahlberg certainly has
The film's twists are constructed just for the sake of being twists and when one of the last ones happen, the real surprise is that you didn't even know you were supposed to be expecting a twist.
When more questions regarding the characters' motivations start circling your mind the only reasonable conclusion you may come to is the fact that you are witnessing a movie that has put every last ounce of coherence at the service of its plot.
How can you take seriously a movie that has a whole system (in this case the NYPD) working around its characters' redemption?

P.S: I carry matches and a lighter as well!


Woodstock said...

yey seems like a definite must-see!!

Woodstock said...

ohh i'm so glad you liked the squid and the whale!! i had watched it a year ago i think and then was when i fell in love with linney.

you review made me think of how annoying juno is compared to it.