This movie is set in 1988 New York City, in which the Russian mob is trying to establish a serious drug trade. They're up against the cops, represented by the Grusinsky family: father Bert (Robert Duvall) and son Joe (Mark Wahlberg). The black sheep of the family is Bobby (Joaquin Phoenix), who runs a local popular dance club, in which one of the drug kingpins hangs out. He has a very attractive girlfriend, Amada (Eva Mendes). Problems, and eventually, tragedy, occur when Bert and Joe ask Bobby to help them out in their investigations.
Movies should assume that everyone in their audience comes in with a big why should I care about this? sign on their foreheads. This movie never makes much of an attempt to answer that question.
From the IMDB trivia page:
According to an interview with Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix would get into character by hurling insults at Robert Duvall between takes. This upset Duvall greatly and Wahlberg had to restrain him.They should have filmed that. That would have been more interesting.