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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Joaquin Phoenix manages to keep ‘Night’ afloat

    It’s easy to compare “”We Own the Night,”” a film about New York City cops trying to bring down a Russian narcotics cartel, to 2006’s Best Picture Oscar winner “”The Departed.”” Both involve police officers, betrayals, inside men and Mark Wahlberg.

    Comparing the two films insinuates that they are, in one way or another, equal, and that is blatantly unfair to the latter. While “”The Departed”” is clever, emotional, dramatic and rich with superb acting performances all around, “”We Own the Night”” is dull, only slightly emotional and has a lone standout performance, by Joaquin Phoenix.

    We Own The Night
    R – 117 min.
    Rating: 2 1/2 stars

    This could be the result of misleading marketing, I suppose. Expecting a high-energy, fast-paced crime thriller, I was surprised and slightly disappointed to instead see a character sketch of Bobby Green (Phoenix), a man who stumbles upon an unexpected path to spiritual cleansing and self-discovery.

    That being said, the sketch was very convincing, and Joaquin Phoenix proves once again that he is one of the best actors in the business. He effortlessly transforms from a party animal nightclub manager to a broken man crying over the damage he has caused his family to a subtle yet dangerous cop. It is easy to become fully absorbed in Bobby’s life, not only because of Phoenix’s outstanding performance but also by the strangely artistic layering of intense action sequences with little to no background noise, which creates a feeling of total immersion in the character’s psyche.

    Nothing else in the film really stands out. This is a shame, because it had a lot of potential: conflicting loyalties, drug trafficking, beautiful women and rad ’80s club music. Wahlberg, who finally managed to rise above his Marky Mark namesake and earn himself an Academy Award acting nomination last year, is virtually invisible for the entire movie. Robert Duvall, of “”Apocalypse Now”” fame, is average at best.

    Acting isn’t the only aspect that determines how good or bad a movie is. Writing, the quality of the filming, special effects and music also contribute. This is the primary reason “”We Own the Night”” is only average. The writing is neither clever nor poignant, there aren’t any scenes that demonstrate cinematographic genius, the film’s violence isn’t intense enough to require extremely planned-out special effects and the score is forgettable. Joaquin Phoenix – and, surprisingly, Eva Mendes – is all the movie really has in terms of strengths.

    A strong acting performance might be enough to carry a different type of film, such as a biopic (“”Walk the Line,”” “”Ray””). But in a movie that is theoretically about the NYPD’s 1988 battle with Russian drug cartels, acting should be only a minor detail, sitting on the bench while superstars such as action, suspense and plot twists play the game. “”We Own the Night”” is a decent drama, but as a crime thriller it leaves much to be desired.

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