Saturday, February 16, 2008

You own the night? Nah. You Own the Year!!

We Own the Night (2007, USA, Director James Gray): Rating 10/10

Curiosity first drew me towards We Own the Night. But I was hooked after the film's first scene appeared following the opening black and white shots depicting a city's drug war. Captivated and intrigued completely. In fact, I hardly moved during the film's almost 2 hour running time. There was no reason to look elsewhere, be distracted or even wander away. Watching a simple story, in fact a story often tackled by Hollywood, bathed in cool and soothing 80's music was a real pleasure.

Although looking back the opening scene was probably my least favourite, yet the background music put me at ease. While there is no harm in watching Eva Mendes (playing Amada) pleasure herself, I found the scene needless. For me, the movie truly began after Amada's boyfriend Bobby (Joaquin Phoenix) indulges her for a few moments before she reminds him of the more important tasks of running a nightclub and the need to attend a meeting with his family. When Bobby leaves Amada and steps out to look down upon his pulsating lively club, the film truly began. Images of Michael Mann's Miami Vice flashed through my head, another film which began in a night club. In We Own the Night the nightclub is Bobby's world, where he is king. People shake his hand and are happy to be in his presence. But when Bobby goes to meet his family, it is a different environment. No one rushes to offer him food like what he gets at his bosses house (the Russian Buzhayev) or even a drink. In fact, no sooner does Bobby's family see him, they want to talk business. And that is where the problems begin.

Bobby runs a nightclub owned by Buzhayev (Moni Moshonov). The Russian owner has some shady relatives (Vadim Nezhinski played by Alex Veadov) who traffic drugs. Bobby's family, including his father (Bert played by Robert Duvall) and brother (Joe played by Mark Wahlberg) are police officers in pursuit of the Russian drug ring. They want Bobby's help in nabbing Vadim but Bobby wants nothing to do with it. He wants to live in his isolated happy world. Unfortunately, Joe is restless and believes in using force to knock things down. After a un-necessary show of force towards Vadim, Joe is a target for the Russians revenge. When things get ugly, Bobby decides to help his family. And then things get even more messy and complicated.

What made this such a fascinating viewing was how Gray puts the story of family & relationships in the film's nucleus while showing the cop/drug elements as hovering particles. Sometimes the cop/drug elements crash into the characters lives and alter their future (examples: the brilliant car chase scene and the tension packed drug hide-out scene). But overall, the relationships take most of the key scenes. There are some well done moments in the film which highlight the relationship between Bobby and Amada. Amada is very close to her mother while Bobby wants nothing to do with Amada's mom. This tension is highlighted well in a scene when he uses his security as an excuse to not visit Amada's mother while visiting his own family. Bobby and his brother's relationship (or lack of it) are also covered nicely. Very early on, it is obvious that Joe is jealous of Bobby's lifestyle. When Joe is angry at Bobby, the first insult that leaves his mouth is against Bobby's Puerto Rican girlfriend. To which Bobby replies that atleast he has a Puerto Rican. Even though Joe has the respect of his father and colleagues, he seeks a bit of Bobby's freedom and is clearly jealous of his luscious girlfriend. On the other hand, Bobby seeks a bit more of his father's love and admires his brother. So he tries to do his best to help his family even if it means putting his life in risk.

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