The new crime drama from director James Gray suffers greatly under the pressure of familiar cop film cliches, yet it has a brilliant sense of space and sound which I cannot shake. Everything from Robert Duvall’s old police chief to the sibling rivalry of good cop brother Mark Wahlberg and druggie Joaquin Phoenix reeks of better made films, especially those by Sidney Lumet. But Gray’s great asset is his ability to craft visual complexities with complimentary audio motifs, reflecting a sense of character not found in the acting or the writing. Like Little Odessa and The Yards before it, We Own the Night starts loudly (killings, train yards, the disco club) and shifts into a brutally restrained and quiet vision of a dark and constricting underworld often unseen but heard and felt. This incredible aesthetic achievement comes to an apex in Gray’s brilliant action centerpiece, a rain drenched car chase shot from an inside POV with restricted sound and camera movement. We see what Phoenix sees, and the scene is movie violence at it’s most horrific, from a distance. The rest of the film, especially the anti-climatic guilt ridden ending, doesn’t come close to these startlingly creative and intense moments.