We Own the Night could've gone either way. Granted, the "two brothers on opposite sides of the law" storyline is formulaic and uninspired, but the presence of loveable freaks Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg and Joaquin "It's Not a Harelip!" Phoenix offers faint hope. Alas, mediocrity wins the day, and writer/director James Gray's underwhelming cops 'n' robbers flick is as disappointing as its slipshod premise.
It's the '80s in New York City, as evidenced by snowdrifts of blow and Blondie on the soundtrack. Bobby (It's Not a Harelip!) manages a popular nightclub, which happens to be home base for one of NYC's most notorious cocaine dealers. Bobby's brother, Joseph (Marky Mark), is a police officer charged with fighting the war on drugs—and when Joseph leads a raid on Bobby's club, a brother vs. brother bro-down unfolds, the banality of which achieves biblical proportions. Bobby and Joseph are only able to put aside their differences after Joseph is shot by the drug kingpin's henchman; in a rush of brotherly love, Bobby then goes undercover to spy on the coke dealers. This promptly and predictably backfires, forcing him to go into hiding as the cops try to find a way to bust the bad guys once and for all.
Because We Own the Night's villain is revealed almost immediately, the film's only suspense lies in wondering what horrible thing is going to happen next, and to which character. There's nothing clever about this film, nor does it make up in action what it lacks in brains. On the upside, there is one cool car chase, and one finger-banging scene that would be hot if the bangee were anyone but Eva "Ghost Rider" Mendes, who's predictably horrible as Bobby's girlfriend. Ultimately, though, the film is nothing more than a catalog of brutish men doing brutal things to each other.