A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while young kids probably won't be interested, older teens who like crime dramas may be drawn to this Joaquin Phoenix-Mark Wahlberg film. Like most mob dramas, there's lots of strong language and a great deal of bloody violence and illicit behavior (drugs and alcohol are everywhere, especially nightclub scenes). In addition to the execution-style killings and police ambushes, there are a few scenes of a couple intensely making out and a shot of two topless, drunk women dancing at a club.
What's the story?
In the crime thriller WE OWN THE NIGHT, Joaquin Phoenix plays Bobby, a 1980s Brooklyn nightclub manager who uses his mother's maiden name so his acquaintances won't discover he's the son and younger brother of an NYPD chief (Robert Duvall) and captain (Mark Wahlberg). He's living high off his club and his gorgeous Puerto Rican girlfriend Amada (Eva Mendes). When his brother's new task force raids the club, Bobby's two worlds tragically collide, forcing him to choose between the cops and the drug dealers working out of his club.
Is it any good?
There's something undeniably heart-stopping about watching an undercover cop or informant in action. At any moment the jig could be up and the fearless hero killed. Phoenix perfectly conveys the terror of infiltrating a crime organization, but the stakes never seem quite as high as they do for Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed. It's difficult not to compare the two films, since both involve a character with a connection to cops and mobsters, bloody executions, a protagonist with a hidden identity, and a fine performance by Mark Wahlberg. But director James Gray's entertaining, poignant crime drama doesn't come close to matching the suspense, originality, or virtuoso acting of Martin Scorsese's Oscar winner.
It's utterly predictable that Bobby makes the "right" decision, but Phoenix's masterly way of portraying vulnerable, roguish men is engrossing, even as you can tell several scenes in advance what bloody confrontations lie ahead. Mendes is lovely, but Amada and Bobby's passion doesn't seem destined to withstand at-close-range executions and constant threats from Russian mobsters. The best scenes, as is to be expected, are those between Duvall, Phoenix, and Wahlberg. Each of them is so gifted that you end up wishing the film were less formulaic -- and less bloody.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of mob movies. Why are these violent movies so popular? What's so compelling about characters with one foot in the criminal world and one in law enforcement? Kids: Was the violence too graphic, or was it appropriate for the subject matter? How realistic do you think the film is?
- In theaters: October 12, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: February 11, 2008
- Cast: Eva Mendes, Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg
- Director: James Gray
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, drug material, language, some sexual content and brief nudity.
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