Bobby Green has turned his back on the family business. The popular manager of El Caribe, the legendary Russian-owned nightclub in Brooklyn's Brighton Beach, he has changed his last name and concealed his connection to a long line of distinguished New York cops. For Bobby, every night is a party, as he greets friends and customers or dances with his beautiful Puerto Rican girlfriend, Amada, in a haze of cigarette smoke and disco music. But it's 1988, and New York City's drug trade is escalating. Bobby tries to keep a friendly distance from the Russian gangster who is operating out of the nightclub — a gangster who is being targeted by his brother, Joseph, an up-and-coming NYPD officer, and his father, Burt, the legendary deputy chief of police.
For more about We Own the Night and the We Own the Night Blu-ray release, see We Own the Night Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on February 12, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
We Own the Night is your prototypical good son / bad son flick. Sort of. I think my expectations for the film were a little off base as I thought that We Own the Night was going to be some sort of modern day To Live and Die in LA. I'm not entirely sure where I got that idea, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
Eva Mendez and Joaquin Phoenix star in We Own the Night
As an all-out war erupts pitting the New York City Police against a viscous band of drug dealers, Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) stands in the middle. Most folks think of Bobby as a fun-loving, well connected nightclub manager. While that might be true, Bobby harbors a secret: He's the son of legendary NYPD Deputy Chief Bert Grusinsky (Robert Duvall) and the brother of hotshot NYPD detective Joseph Grusinsky (Mark Wahlberg). His many underworld connections would be less than pleased at his heritage. Bobby has survived for many years by not taking sides and avoiding his family. When his brother is seriously injured in a gunfight, however, Bobby will be forced to finally stand up for his family.
The one thing that does stand out in We Own the Night are the fantastic performances. Any plot-related shakiness can't sully the outstanding lead actors in the film. Mark Wahlberg, again, proves that he's more than an action star and former rapper. He's very subtle in his performance and seems to have built his character in the film, in part, after his portrayal in The Departed. Joaquin Phoenix also carries the film nicely and Robert Duvall, as usual, classes up the whole affair simply by being present. With a better script, there could have easily been a few Oscar nods in We Own the Night.
My main gripe with We Own the Night is in the film's pacing. The initial 30 minutes of the film drags along with more emphasis on the soundtrack and disco setting than in any plot points. Frankly, it seems like an extended disco scene with a few "gritty" city shots thrown in for color. Fortunately, things get on track shortly thereafter and the film finds it footing in the second act. That second act builds the film's tension quite well and sets up well for a great finale. Unfortunately, that finale never really materializes and the film sort of whimpers in the end. Ultimately We Own the Night is a missed opportunity.
We Own the Night is presented on Blu-ray in beautiful 1080p video using the AVC Mpeg-4 codec. Sony has once again opted for the high bitrate method for this encode and it shows in just about every frame of the film. We Own the Night is framded in the 1.85: aspect ratio and that is also perfectly preserved on this disc. Your display should show very slight black bars on the top and bottom of the screen if it has been correctly calibrated.
We Own the Night is a rich film. The color pallete ranges from deep yellow / golden hues to shades of steely blue throughout the film. Generally speaking, just about every interior in the film glows in an unnatural amber tint that is a bit distracting at times, yet totally accurate to the theatrical look of the film. The film was shot, intentionally, with a high level of contrast and that has been translated to Blu-ray spectacularly well. There are an abundance of dark, shadowy scenes in We Own the Night and they are all rendered flawlessly. While not the most detailed or colorful film on record, We Own the Night is a gritty and effective presentation on Blu-ray that still maintains that coveted three dimensional pop.
We Own the Night comes to Blu-ray sporting not one, but three Dolby TrueHD tracks. In addition to English, French and Spanish are also included. Strangely, Hindi subtitles are provided in addition to the standard compliment of languages. I guess We Own the Night was really popular in India. Regardless, Sony continues to lead the industry in lossless audio support by consistently supplying either TrueHD or PCM audio tracks on all of their Blu-ray releases.
We Own the Night is , without a doubt, a dialogue-heavy film that features very little in the way of aurally challenging action fodder. The occasional ricochet or ambient music fill makes up the entirety of the surround program as this mix is heavily front-loaded. Naturally, this TrueHD track does an excellent job of presenting dialogue naturally and intelligibly. What little action there is in the film is nicely handled. Those Blondie tracks on the soundtrack sure did sound nice, though!
We Own the Night features a fairly light collection of extras. I wasn't entirely impressed with the quality of the features, but they are all presented in 1080p video.
Here's what's included:
Audio Commentary - Director James Grey waxes poetic about his film and is often-times a bit tedious. I'll give credit to Mr. Grey for the passion he has about his projects.
Police Action: Creating Cops, Cars and Chaos (1080p, 10 Minutes) - This first of three short featurettes focuses the stunt work in the film. Technical buffs will enjoy this.
Tension: Creating We Own the Night (1080p, 15 Minutes) - This short featurette focuses on the creation of the film and features interviews with the stars of the show as well as the aforementioned Mr. Grey.
A Moment in Crime: Creating Late '80s Brooklyn (1080p, 9 Minutes) - The final featurette of the set goes into specifics regarding the costumes and sets that added to the film's authentic Brooklyn setting.
On the outside, We Own the Night would appear to have all the right ingredients to make a fantastic film. A compelling plot, great music and a whole slew of great performances. Unfortunately, that great plot can't sustain itself for the duration of the film and we are left with something of a disappointment. On the bright side, We Own the Night had made a marvelous transition to Blu-ray with a stellar, gritty video transfer and enough lossless audio to keep multi-lingual viewers busy for several viewings. The film's supplements amount to little more than filler, but there are a few interesting anecdotes to be gleaned. In the end, watch We Own the Night for the great performances - - just don't be surprised if it leaves you a little cold.
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring 'We Own the Night' to Blu-ray on February 12th, day-and-date with the DVD release. No specs have been announced at this time, but extras include audio commentary, and the featurettes "Police Action: ...