We Own the Night (film)

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For songs of the same name, see We Own the Night (disambiguation).
We Own the Night
We Own The Night poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Gray
Produced by Marc Butan
Joaquin Phoenix
Mark Wahlberg
Nick Wechsler
Written by James Gray
Starring Joaquin Phoenix
Mark Wahlberg
Eva Mendes
Robert Duvall
Music by Wojciech Kilar
Cinematography Joaquín Baca-Asay
Edited by John Axelrad
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Universal Pictures (international)
Release dates
  • May 25, 2007 (2007-05-25) (Cannes)
  • October 12, 2007 (2007-10-12) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $21 million[1]
Box office $54,926,886

We Own the Night is a 2007 American crime drama film written and directed by James Gray and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes and Robert Duvall. It is the third film directed by Gray, and the second to feature Phoenix and Wahlberg together, the first being The Yards.

The title comes from the motto of the NYPD's Street Crimes Unit, which disbanded in 2002.

The film premiered May 25, at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.[2] It was released October 12, 2007 in the United States and Canada. It was released in the United Kingdom on December 14, 2007 and in Australia on February 28, 2008.


In 1988 in Brooklyn, New York, Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) is the manager of the successful El Caribe nightclub in Brighton Beach that is frequented by Russian gangster and drug lord Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov); and owned by Marat Buzhayev, Vadim's uncle and Bobby's boss.

Bobby has distanced himself from his father, NYPD Deputy Chief Burt Grusinsky (Robert Duvall), and his brother, Captain Joseph Grusinsky (Mark Wahlberg). He uses the maiden name of his mother, Carol Green, as his last name, preferring to remain on the sidelines and enjoy a hedonistic life with his girlfriend Amada Juarez (Eva Mendes) and best friend Louis "Jumbo" Falsetti (Danny Hoch).

When police forces led by Joseph make a raid on Bobby's nightclub on November 22, 1988, hoping to net Vadim, Bobby refuses to cooperate. The incident strains his relationship with his father and brother even more, to the point that he and Joseph exchange blows and insult each other's significant other (for Bobby, it is Amada, and for Joseph, it is his wife Sandra).

The police are unsuccessful in capturing Vadim, who decides to retaliate. At 5:43 pm on the evening of November 23, 1988, Joseph is shot by a masked assailant, and his unmarked police cruiser firebombed. Joseph survives the ambush, but the extent of the injury requires him to be hospitalized for four months. Vadim, unaware of Bobby's family ties, confides that the Chief will be the next victim. Bobby resolves to help the police. Behind his father's back, Bobby goes undercover inside Vadim's drug-smuggling operation and has a narrow escape. Bobby and Amada are placed under constant police protection and their relationship begins to deteriorate.

On March 20, 1989, Vadim escapes custody while being transported to a hospital. The police prepare to move Bobby and Amada to a new location. During a blinding thunderstorm, the police convoy is intercepted by Vadim's men and, during a chaotic car chase, Burt is fatally shot. Bobby passes out in the rain when he sees his father's body.

The police take Bobby and Amada back to a Sheraton Hotel near Kennedy Airport. He wakes up a few hours later and finds Joseph in the hotel room. After Joseph tells him that their father died, Bobby cries in Joseph's arms and asks how "they" found them. At the funeral, which is attended by all of the officers and their families, a colleague of Joseph's, Captain Jack Shapiro, gives him Burt's Korean War medal. Bobby is told that a Russian shipment is coming in sometime in the next week.

To avenge his father, Bobby decides to officially join the police force without the consent of Amada, who leaves him. After he is sworn into the NYPD, Bobby, now in uniform, learns the true involvement of Jumbo, his friend, and Marat, Vadim's uncle. He and Joseph organize a final sting operation, set for April 4, 1989. During the raid, Joseph is emotionally incapacitated by the memory of his shooting and cannot continue. Vadim flees into the reed beds, and the police toss in flares to smoke him out. As the beds are engulfed in flames and smoke, Bobby runs in to find Vadim himself, ignoring the other officers' pleas that he wait. Bobby shoots Vadim in the chest, mortally wounding him.

The story ends on November 3, 1989, nearly a year after its beginning, with Bobby graduating from the NYPD Police Academy to become a full-time police officer, just in time for the 1990s. Before the ceremony, Joseph reveals to Bobby that he has decided to switch to a job in the administration sector, since the shooting made him think about how much he needs to spend more time with his three children (in the beginning, he has only two). As the chaplain announces that Bobby is to give the valedictory speech, Bobby thinks he sees Amada in the audience, but it turns out to be an illusion. Bobby and Joseph express their brotherly love.


  • Former New York Mayor Ed Koch makes a cameo as himself. Koch was the mayor in real life during the film's time frame.


The film received mixed reviews from critics. As of May 2009 on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 55% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 133 reviews.[3] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 59 out of 100, based on 33 reviews.[4]

In its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, the film grossed $10.8 million in 2,362 theaters, ranking #3 at the box office.[5] The film grossed a total of $54.5 million worldwide — $28.5 million in the United States and Canada and $26.0 million in other territories.[6]

The film was a commercial success in the United States, as Sony Pictures only paid $11 million for the rights to distribute this film.[7] Sony Pictures released this film through its Columbia Pictures division.

The film has been a hit in the United States DVD market, as it has brought in more than $22 million in DVD sales[8] and more than $32 million in DVD rentals.[9]


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