Saturday, May 2, 2009

We (have slight control over) the Night

There are brilliant films, horrible films, and scores of others that vary in quality*. Every once in a while, though, there's one that's too flawed to be called "good," but too original/captivating/well-crafted to be dismissed simply as "bad."

*And the award for Most Profound Statement of the Day goes to ...

That last sentence certainly describes the 2007 crime (melo)drama We Own the Night.

(Photo from

The story isn't so great: A coke-sniffing club owner (Li'l Joaquin), whose brother (fellow quasi-musician Marky Mark) and father (Robert Duvall, who -- little-known fact -- once was in The Sugarhill Gang) happen to be pretty important NYPD cops, reluctantly becomes involved with the Russian mafia. That puts bro and dad in danger. Then tragedy happens. There's a lot of man-crying. Eva Mendes is around, too, to yell a little bit and look, well, like Eva Mendes. In all, some parts of the plot don't make a whole lot of sense.

And yet ...

First, points to Night for rarely falling into mob-movie formula. That, combined with craft, keeps it memorable. On that craft -- it's hard to take your eyes off the screen because writer-director James Gray pretty much nails the "director" part of that duo. The film features some scenes of pure originality and intensity, and makes you care even though you probably shouldn't.

One, where Li'l Joaquin's character is wired-up and inside a drug den, is accompanied by the ringing that's probably in your ears when you know you're in an absurd amount of danger. Exceptional. Another -- a chase through reeds -- is visually impressive (if not as emotionally charged as Gray probably hoped).

But the show-stealer -- and I'm hardly the first to say this -- is the car chase.

Car chases = yawn. Usually.

This car chase is incredible*.

*It's spoiler-iffic, too, but I actually watched it before I saw the whole film, and that didn't hurt things all that much. Verdict: It's worth it.

So hey, the movie might not Own, but parts do. That's certainly worth something in an era marked by one derivative movie after another.

No comments:

Post a Comment