We Own the Night

Directed by James Gray (R)

Trouble with the Russian mob reunites two estranged brothers.


Writer and director James Gray “makes essentially the same film over and over again,” said Kirk Honeycutt in The Hollywood Reporter. Like 2000’s The Yards, We Own the Night concerns male family members who face a moral struggle inside New York’s corrupt world of cops and gangsters. Gray even resorts to using the same leading men, Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix, whom he cast in The Yards. This time, Phoenix plays a coke-dealing nightclub owner whose brother (Wahlberg) and father (Robert Duvall) are both cops. At their behest, Phoenix infiltrates the Russian mob. “The problem is not that Gray is an especially bad filmmaker but rather that he is an unimaginative one.” Gray, who grew up in Queens, could expand these family themes with autobiographical details. Instead he searches for leftovers in an overly familiar genre dominated by Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. To attempt such a feat, “you have to do better than dial-acliché dialogue,” said Kyle Smith in the New York Post. Overused lines such as “It’s like a war out there” and “Don’t be a hero” pop up too often here. “Scorsese would have fired the writer.” Unfortunately, Gray is the writer, said Peter Rainer in The Christian Science Monitor. He should focus his energy on directing, where he displays “a sinuous camera style that pulls us into the brackish allure of the underworld” and more than enough ideas of his own.