If outer-boroughs specialist James Gray (The Yards) is hoping to undo or complicate the NYC police’s rallying cry of the 1980s—actually sewn into patches on uniforms—he’s done a piss-poor job of it. We Own the Night has to be the squarest cop movie to come down the pike since Serpico. Not that that’s such a bad thing. But if you’ve seen Mark Wahlberg’s outrageously rude Boston detective in The Departed, the Gotham growler he plays here will seem a little undercooked. Similarly, Joaquin Phoenix’s bad-seed brother and Robert Duvall’s stern ex-cop dad seem a little stock as well.
Gray sends the family into jeopardy via some scary Russian mobsters (his field of expertise since Little Odessa), who hope to set up a massive drug operation. But where David Cronenberg’s recent Eastern Promises commits to psychology, Gray seems lost in some admittedly dynamite action set-pieces: a car chase in a torrential downpour, a wiretap sting operation gone south. His feel for dialogue has rarely failed him, and it doesn’t here. That said, we watch the Die Hard movies for narratives this heroic and tidy.
Cast and crew