We Own the Night


We Own the Night

Critics Consensus

Bland characters, clichéd dialogue and rickety plotting ensure We Own The Night never lives up to its potential.



Total Count: 151


Audience Score

User Ratings: 264,318
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Movie Info

At the height of a bloody 1980s struggle between New York City police and a Russian mob that targeted law officers and their families, the NYPD hung "We Own the Night" banners in precinct houses and stepped up their efforts.


Joaquin Phoenix
as Bobby Green
Mark Wahlberg
as Joseph Grusinsky
Eva Mendes
as Amanda Juarez
Robert Duvall
as Burt Grusinsky
Antoni Corone
as Michael Solo
Moni Moshonov
as Marat Buzhayev
Oleg Taktarov
as Pavel Lubyarsky
Alex Veadov
as Vadim Nezhinski
Tony Musante
as Jack Shapiro
Danny Hoch
as Jumbo Falsetti
Ed Koch
as Mayor
Craig Walker
as Russell De Keifer
Maggie Kiley
as Sandra Grusinsky
Yelena Solovey
as Kalina Buzhayev
Paul Herman
as Capt. Spiro Giavannis
Edward Shkolnikov
as Eli Mirichenko
Joe D'Onofrio
as Bloodied Patron
Katya Savina
as Eli & Masha's Daughter
Matthew Djentchouraev
as Eli & Masha's Son
Scott Nicholson
as Nat the Cop
Al Linea
as Portly Cop
Robert C. Kirk
as Sergeant Provenzano
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News & Interviews for We Own the Night

Critic Reviews for We Own the Night

All Critics (151) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (86) | Rotten (65)

  • An intriguing blend of mainstream audience-pleaser and a more subtle, even intellectual agenda.

    Jul 6, 2010
  • It's not surprising, but it's engaging enough that most patrons will likely cut the director some slack for the out-of-period details and convoluted plot contrivances that make the film seem at once sloppy and too neat.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Bob Mondello

    Top Critic
  • The drama gains momentum in the second half, so the film gets better, but it's never too far from cliche.

    Feb 29, 2008 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • [Gray's] feel for dialogue has rarely failed him, and it doesn't here.

    Jan 18, 2008 | Rating: 3/5
  • It is a little cumbersome with plenty of macho-sentimentalism, and the ending is frankly contrived. But go and see it for the car chase.

    Dec 14, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • The always charismatic Phoenix is the highlight; he carries the film, rising above the occasionally uninspired dialogue and plotting to give a powerhouse turn as a man caught between ambition and duty.

    Dec 14, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for We Own the Night

  • Jul 03, 2014
    The ending feels a little too abrupt and the Eva Mendes character isn't well defined. However, visually the film is often mesmerizing (the car chase and the final gunfight are both beautiful and frightening) and I like how Gray sets up several different potentially cliched Cop film scenarios, only to knock them down.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 11, 2012
    Pretty good drama, We Own The Night is supported by a good cast and has a very good story. However I was bit let down. The acting was great, the performance by the three lead actors were just wonderful. However I felt that towards the end of the film, director James Gray rushed to try and conclude his film. The film started swell, and despite the fact that lacks a bit near the end, it's still a film worth watching. I very much enjoyed the plot of this film, and it had the right amount of drama, and sometimes action. I just feel that more effort could have been put into the ending. Other than that, this is a good film with a good plot, and great performances. This is a film worth watching and the cast make this film worth seeing. Although it's flawed near the end, the film has a very good first half. There's plenty to enjoy here, and the film succeeds at being a compelling drama about a family separated by law and crime. What really stood out in this film was Joaquin Phoenix's performance as Bobby Green a night club manager whose father and brother are cops. The thing that stood was how he ultimately made the choice of going to honest route once his life was threatened. The chemistry between Robert Duvall, Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix is the standout of this film, and more than makes up for the rushed ending. This is a very good film, but one that also could have been much better.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Apr 28, 2012
    Well, it appears as though the tables have turned since James Gray's last film, "The Yards", and now Joaquin Phoenix is owning the spotlight over Mark Wahlberg, only this time, we have a film that's not as good as "The Yards"... from what I hear, because I haven't seen any other James Gray films. Of course, if it's anything like this film, then, well, I watched all of his movies a long time ago and many times, because this is pretty darn similar to most every crime movie out there, only with a much cooler title. Actually, I say that, but the level of coolness in that title went south when I saw the trailer, which opened wearing the fact that it takes place in the late '80s on its sleeve, while having Joaquin Phoenix walk into a nightclub with a pierced left ear. With a trailer opening like that, the title sounded like it could either go to a cool but generic crime film or a music video to one of those terrible dance club songs that they actually made in 1989 to get ready for the downfall of good music. No, I'm kidding; this is quite obviously a crime film, and boy, James Gray is not going to let you forget that. Okay, maybe the film isn't that generic. In fact, it promises to be refreshing, but that's something that Jim Gray forgot awful fast when he started writing the dialogue. Okay, now, I complain a lot about the film falling into some genericism and all, but really, a lot of that is just exaggeration, because the film manages to dodge glaring amateur missteps more than you would expect it to. However, while this film isn't as run-of-the-mill as it could have been, it still doesn't go too far without collapsing back into conventions, when it comes to both dialogue and general story structure, and while those slip-ups aren't as striking as they would be and very much are in less competent crime films, they are more frequent than they should be, and a film with a story this potentially refreshing deserves better than that. However, even if the conventions were glaring and grating in this film, then they would, well, actually be the biggest of the film's worries, because the minor lapses in originality are problematic enough as they are, so one can only imagine how grating this film would be if it was on the level of genericism as a weeknight cable cop drama, only an hour longer. Still, as things stand, the collapses into conventions are the least of this film's problems, with the film's biggest problem being missteps in James Gray's storytelling, which isn't to say that it's unrelentingly shoddy, though it is certainly spotty here and there, with moments of exposition and transition going glossed over to create some not terribly gaping, but rather offputting gaps in comfortable story flow, as well as moments of moderate overstyle in the tone, whether it be through the overbearing blasting of the soundtrack or simply too much emphasis on the environment, leaving certain moments of cool-down - some of which being fairly major - in the film to go a tad limp and damage the effectiveness of the story. The storytelling faults more often than it should, and often during points where it really doesn't need to fault, and with the story also going plauged by some repetition, the film's escalations are inconsistent and the film is left scattered all over the place. This renders the film rather underwhelming and sometimes overbearing, leaving its should-be entralling atmosphere to rarely grip you tightly and its potential to squander a bit. However, where other crime dramas of this type and of these flaws would have just left it at that and stand as simply nothing at all terribly special, this film, while not at all terribly transcendant, still stands its ground as a genuinely enjoyable film that ultimately rewards from, if nothing else, a stylistic standpoint. Sure, there are moments of atmospheric overstyle, and the style is never really all that stellar to begin with, yet the film's style works more to its benefit than its detriment, which isn't to say that the style really brings this film to full life, though it does certainly liven things up and help in setting both the tone, as well as the time, which is presented in a way where the time setting is known, though not telegraphed, yet not at the cost of some pretty fun '80s tunes here and there. Another stylistic aspect that supplements the tone of the film is, of course, Joaquín Baca-Asay's cinematography, which isn't terribly upstanding among recent similiar films shot in this film, yet remains effective in its gritty rawness, especially at the action sequences, which, I must say, are pretty impressive. Sure, the action is so good that, by the climax - during which the film has to be on top of its game, in terms of action -, it doesn't have terribly striking power, yet, the fact of that matter is that the action is still so impressive, having a lot of style, but still plenty of raw realism, as well as focus on substance to not only make the action cool to look at, but compelling in the context of the story. Still, what really places you in this world the most might have to be the acting, which isn't to say that everyone is great, though it is certainly to say that everyone plays his or her part with authenticity and charisma that leaves his or her role to comfortably fall into place and give this film human depth and believability. Of course, please not that I said that not "everyone" is great, for although the secondaries are good enough to supplement the situation, the situation is really brought to life by the one truly excellent performance, and by a person we expect no less from: Joaquin Phoenix. The Bobby Green character is one that starts off as a fiery charisma that's on top of the world, only to face dangers and tragedies that he tries to fight back, only to find himself locked in situations he was never prepared for as he unravels and changes into a different, more broken human by the end of it all. It's a tough role to play, yet Phoenix makes it look effortless, nailing the initial charisma, but when things begin to unravel and get real, Phoenix molds from that charisma a presence of subtle anguish, as well as strength as the Bobby Green character tries his hardest to keep things as under control as he can, though finds himself held back by pure, scarring fear, and watching Phoenix deliver such a soberingly subtle, emotional and compellingly layered performance is one of, if not the biggest reason to see this film, as it helps the most in giving this film the grit, depth and humanity that makes it a notable entry in a sea of familiar crime dramas. At the end of the night, there's no getting around the not terribly glaring, yet still very much active conventions, nor is there any hope of getting around the missteps in storytelling, yet what helps the film in transcending the dangers of falling into forgettability among the crime-drama genre is the subtle, yet handsome style that compliments tone, setting and some heavy action, yet not quite as much as the colorful and very human cast, headed by an especially excellent Joaquin Phoenix, whose layered, emotional and deeply compelling lead performance is among the fair deal of strengths that ultimately make "We Own the Night" a compelling and generally satisfying film. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Dec 08, 2011
    We Own the Night is the story of two brothers. Bobby Green, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a hot-shot night club owner on his way up with a beautiful girlfriend, (Eva Mendes). The second brother, Joseph Grusinsky, is the good son, the cop. Joe and thier father, Albert, played by Robert Duvall, are cracking down on New York's drug traffic. The big target is Vadim Nezhinski, notorious gangster and drug dealer. It just so happens that Vadim's favorite selling spot is the very night club that Bobby manages. Vadim's uncle, Marat Buzhayev, is Bobbies boss and owner of the club, giving free range to Vadim. Albert and Joe know this and want to get information from Bobby, who is reluctant to work with cops, family or not. After a drug raid leads to Bobbies arrest there is a severing of family ties, but tragedy strikes and Bobby is left at a crossroads: Will he be a boss or a rat? The crime drama is a well worn path in cinematic history. This places a hefty burden upon those that walk that path to find a new spin on old stories. Though this film is compently crafted by James Grey with several fine performances, We Own the Night is not up to the task at hand. It all seems to have been done before by better films and I was, quite frankly, bored with the results. Cops and robbers both are neither interesting, and have nothing much to say. One could simply cut and paste these people into any crime script, and it would make little difference. It's all a tedious excercise in genre conventions with no added depth or emotion and little tension.
    Brandon S Super Reviewer

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