Sunday, October 21, 2007

We Own the Night & Sleuth (2007)

These two movies have nothing in common except that I don't think I could write intelligently for very long about either of them, as both are retreads of previous greatness.


You have seen this movie before, in fact writer\director James Gray has made this movie before. His limited filmography (The Yards, Little Odessa) shows Gray has a great affinity for the crime procedural, but also shows he doesn't have the deftness to bring anything new to it. We Own the Night tells the stale and overly- redundant story of two brothers-- one a decent, hardworking cop (Mark Wahlberg), and one a nightclub manager (Joaquin Phoenix) with more immoral ties he's even aware of. Obvious tensions ensue, especially with their father, a revered police captain (Robert Duvall.) Things go down, alliances are forged, drugs get sold, Eva Mendes exposes her chest, I yawned and struggled to stay awake.

What's depressing here is that Gray is fairly talented at staging scenes-- there's a car chase that's well shot and French Connectiony charged, but since there's little to no actually character development or involvement, it's all done in vain. Phoenix does what he can with a nondescript template of a character, and it's always welcome to watch Duvall, but poor Mark Wahlberg, especially after the glory of The Departed, is robbed of his abundant charms and basically spends his screen time sulking. We Own the Night thinks it has the soul of a great Scorcese mob epic, but it tries to hard to be great, that the end result is merely half-assed. D+

SLEUTH (2007)

There's nothing but a great pedigree involved in this remake of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1972 Michael Caine\Laurence Olivier classic-- Caine himself returns as the older guy, and Jude Law takes on Caine's original role (a retread in itself, didn't he just do that with Alfie!), in an adaptation penned by wordsmith Harold Pinter, directed by Kenneth Branaugh! EHHH! The acting is terrific, Caine and Law banter and strike forcefully and commitedly, the words are biting and strong and the first thirty or so minutes are pleasurable, but then it just keeps going, and the staginess gets to be annoying and stilted. For the uninitiated, Law plays a young playboy stooping Caine's wife and the two go back and forth in humiliating and torturing each other. There's a modern twist at the end, but it's hard to take it seriously because, in the end, you can't really believe a word that comes out of either of their mouths. C-

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