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Movie Review

We Own the Night

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, drug material, language, some sexual content and brief nudity

Reviewed by: Rachelle Smotherman

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Crime, Drama
1 hr. 57 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 12, 2007 (wide)
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures

How does viewing violence in movies affect the family? Answer

Featuring: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes, Tony Musante, Edward Conlon, Antoni Corone, Alex Veadov, Katie Condidorio, Burton Perez
Director: James Gray (“The Yards,” “Little Odessa”)
Producer: Marc Butan, Mark Cuban, Anthony Katagas, Joaquin Phoenix, Couper Samuelson, Mike Upton, Todd Wagner, Mark Wahlberg, Nick Wechsler
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

“Two brothers on opposite sides of the law. Beyond their differences lies loyalty.”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) has turned his back on the family business. The popular manager of El Caribe, the legendary Russian-owned nightclub in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, he has changed his last name and concealed his connection to a long line of distinguished New York cops. For Bobby, every night is a party, as he greets friends and customers or dances with his beautiful Puerto Rican girlfriend, Amada (Eva Mendes), in a haze of cigarette smoke and disco music.

But it’s 1988, and New York City’s drug trade is escalating. Bobby tries to keep a friendly distance from the Russian gangster who is operating out of the nightclub—a gangster who is being targeted by his brother, Joseph (Mark Wahlberg), an up-and-coming NYPD officer, and his father, Burt (Robert Duvall), the legendary deputy chief of police.

Columbia Pictures' and 2929 Productions' ‘We Own the Night,’ an emotional crime thriller about a man who has chosen to hide his past only to discover that he has to confront an inevitable future, takes its title from the motto of the 1980s-era NYPD street crimes unit.”

“We Own The Night”, starring Joaquin Phoenix (“Walk the Line”), Mark Wahlberg (“Shooter”), Robert Duval (“Second Hand Lions”) and Eva Mendes (“Ghost Rider”) is chock full of great acting, many surprises and a gripping storyline. However, it doesn’t come without trash.

Set in New York in the 1980s, “We Own The Night” is the story of Bobby Green (Phoenix) and Burt and Joseph Grusinsky (Duvall and Wahlberg) who are family on opposite sides of the law, with the Grusinskys being police officers and Green being the manager of a popular club that services the Russian Mob.

The storyline may seem typical with the bad son having to choose where his loyalty lies while the good son is adored and respected, but I found more depth in this movie and appreciated the hard emotional decisions that all three characters were faced with. Ultimately, this movie is a perfect example of the prodigal son and a great lesson in forgiveness and redemption.

There’s no question that “We Own The Night” has a great cast, or that it will hold your attention with its suspenseful twists and turns. However, with the opening scene being one of a couple engaged in graphic, heavy foreplay, this movie is littered with too much objectionable content to recommend. Profanity degrades the entire movie and topless women are in the audience’s face. There is also a fair share of violence, but not as much as I expected.

Bottom line, if you are looking for a movie that complements your values, you likely won’t find it here.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—Beware, the first thing in the movie was offensive with sexual content and did show topless women. Our friends walked out, but I knew there was a plot somewhere, so I stayed, and it did get better. There was a lot of cursing and drug use, but that subsided as the main character’s personality changed. I thought the story line was a good one, but could have been portrayed with less offensive material. The best part was the end. So many movies end with vengeance and violence, but this one showed the transformation of the main character. You had a good feeling at the end. Overall, it was okay, but if you have if you don’t think you can get past the rough stuff at the beginning, think twice before going.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3½
—Gloria, age 42
Neutral—I have mixed feelings about this movie. “It was good” is something I say about a lot of movies, but most often, I don’t explain why or in what ways. The beginning scene—very uncomfortable. Seconds later, topless women are dancing in the club… and then that’s it. It’s almost as if the filmmakers felt “it’s there, we got it out of the way, now we can continue.” I recommend skipping the first 5 minutes altogether. It’s utterly pointless and you will not miss a thing.

The swearing is pervasive; “We Own The Night” is filled with everyone’s favorite four letter epithet that litters most R-movies. Other than that, there isn’t much else in terms of objectionable language or dialogue. The violence is pretty heavy, but not frequent. In a story about drugs n’ cops, what else can be expected? All three male lead actors are perfectly cast.

The story is engaging. It incorporates a few positive themes like loyalty and redemption, as others have noted; it avoids many clichés and takes the viewer to several different places. The dialogue is concise and never becomes a cesspool of plodding conversations and technical police terms—which it could have easily taken that direction. There’s never too much of any one particular thing like car chase scenes or shootouts. The film strove for balance, and it achieved it. The ending is slightly forced but is rather satisfactory and avoids a rather tempting way to wrap things up.

So what’s my complaint with such a “good” movie? Nothing really—it stands on its own as a good flick to watch once. But that’s just it—it warrants A viewing. It lacks the likable characters, beautiful music, quotability, sweet romance, epic story, …Pick any of these elements you love about movies like “Braveheart,” “The Notebook,” the original “Star Wars,” “Office Space,” etc. They’re just not there in “We Own Night.” While this movie is good, it falls short of the necessary ingredients to make it great.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jacob Keenum, age 21
Negative—I probably should have left, but I amit I was drawn to the storyline. If we ever want Hollywood to stop making what would otherwise be a good movie littered with trash, then we should probably stop seeing them. If their profits dwindle then just maybe they might start making movies without all the garbage. When will they learn a clean (no nudity or offensive language) movie can and will stand on it’s own merit.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Debbie, age 48
Negative—My wife and I were very offended by the opening scene. The nudity was not necessary and was a poor attempt to grab the watcher’s attention. The story lacked character development. You felt like you following 10 different people’s lives. Whatever point it was trying to make, it did not make it clearly to me. Robert Duvall was the only actor that demonstrated any decent acting ability in this movie. Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg disappointed me. I did not expect much out of Eva Mendes to begin with. I DO NOT recommend this movie to anyone.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 1½
—Tony, age 26