Wednesday, February 4, 2009
We Own the Night. Feature film. (2007, 117 mins) IMDB
e've seen this story before and yet we haven't. I guess that's part of trying to make an interesting story these days--so much has been done.
The movie is set in NYC or more specifically Brooklyn where cops in the late 1980s are trying to bring down a Russian mobster. Someone who is importing drugs and killing cops at will. As I say, we've seen this before.
The film focuses on Phoenix. He's the black sheep of the family. The prodigal son. Or a variation on that theme.
He's the son of a deputy police chief in the NYPD. A son who runs a large night club in Brooklyn owed by a Russian man who imports and sells furs. I say the prodigal son because he lives fast and loose. Drugs. Women. Drinking. Late nights. Yet, he's not a criminal in the sense of the big fish. He's not part of the drug smuggling.
In Act I, we meet him living fast. We meet his sexy girlfriend. Then we meet his father and brother. His brother followed in the family tradition and is a captain in the NYPD. The family takes Bobby aside to talk to him about the gangster whom he might know. The focus is on Vadim. Vadim has been to the club etc., but Bobby doesn't know him or his business. He also doesn't want to get involved, doesn't want to be a police informant. He's loving his life as it exists now.
In the next sequence, the police raid his giant nightclub. Certain of Vadim's men are arrested and so is Bobby. He's roughed up by the cops. At the police station, one of Vadim's men slits his own throat with a knife. We see the extent of violence and intimation possible with this Russian gang.
Since Bobby's brother orchestrated the raid, he's targeted by the gang. While stepping from his car in front of his house, he is shot in the face and left for dead. This moment is a turning point for Bobby. He wants in. He wants to help the police get Vadim.
To this point in the film, all seems predictable and familiar and parts of what follows is the same, but there are some great visuals.
Bobby plays the informant. He wears a wire and goes to Vadim's processing plant for heroin. It's here the police make their big raid, lots of killing, Vadim in jail, but now Vadim knows what happened and Bobby and his girlfriend are in protective custody.
That Vadim should seek revenge is a given. That his father should get involved is also a given. That Vadim should escape from prison is a convenience for the story plot and that he should kill Bobby's father, just another step in reforming the prodigal son.
But that's what happens.
We see Bobby go from fast and loose with no concern for others, especially law enforcement, to someone studying to become a police officer and finally, with special consideration, becoming a probationary member of the NYPD and we're into Act III.
The goal is the same. Find Vadim and his men.
They get a break, screenwriting talk for convenience, when they learn Vadim is pulling off a deal in some abandoned warehouse (why is it always the way?). The drug deal is going down with limos and goons with assault rifles. A swarm of police surround the place. Then all hell breaks loose. Yes, we're getting close to the end. Vadim makes an escape, but Bobby, now a completely transformed police officer, is the one to chase him down. That Bobby should track Vadim down and kill him with a shotgun is not surprising.
It turns out Vadim wasn't acting along. The owner of the nightclub also imported furs. His activities and business seemed legit to the police, but in these closing scenes we see the furs were infused with the heroin.
I mentioned two visuals.
The first was a chase scene where Bobby and his girlfriend are in one car. His father in another. An escort following. It's that point in the movie where they are moving Bobby from one protective custody location to another, but Vadim has discovered the move and bang a car appears and starts shooting. It reminded me of the famous car sequence in THE FRENCH CONNECTION under an EL-train tracks in NYC, but this sequence was different. Maybe because it was soaked in rain. You don't often see car chases soaked in rain because it's difficult to do.
The other visual was in the final stalking sequence. The land around the warehouse is covered with dry, tall grass. I'm mean corn stalk tall. I've never seen grass like that but it looked real. For some reason it was effective in creating an eerie feel.
It's good to see films with unique shots that aren't entirely CGI. Tough to accomplish these days. We've seen so much.
Posted 2009/02/04 at 18h09ET in Movie Commentary.