The Yards

"Extraordinary"

The Yards Review


The Yards begins with a rebirth of sorts. A subway train emerges from a tunnel into daylight. It is carrying Leo Handler (Mark Wahlberg) out of the darkness and home, after his time in prison. He has taken the rap for an auto theft circle, one including close buddy Willie (Joaquin Phoenix), and is returning to a grateful homecoming. But The Yards is a dark crime drama, and Leo's future doesn't remain in the light for long in James Gray's impressive, classically styled mini-saga.

Gray, recently appearing with The Yards at the Boston Film Festival, based his tale of New York City subway vendor corruption on his own father's experiences. The filmmaker has given us a well-composed script, deftly flowing through intertwining relations of families, friends, enemies, and politicians. He sustains a hopelessly dim design throughout the film, even having the mind to steal wonderfully from a few Godfather scenes (he claims by accident), and lifting Gordon Willis' outstanding cinematography with his DP, Harris Savides (on purpose). Gray's direction gives us an overriding sense of doom that retains suspense far beyond that of a second-time filmmaker (his first being 1994's grim Little Odessa). But all that is nothing without Mark Wahlberg.

The movie world is finally becoming convinced that Wahlberg can tackle just about any role and carry an entire picture if need be. Initially, he had to sell himself to Gray, assuring him that having done jail time himself, he "gets it" and could make Leo his own.

Instead of playing the streetwise punk that Gray may have first envisioned, Wahlberg nails a more sympathetic Leo -- tough, proud, loyal, uneducated -- all with a pinpoint conservation of emotion and energy. He walks through most of The Yards in a daze, not knowing how to handle a larcenous offer but sliding into it anyway, slowly contemplating his moves after one particularly disastrous jam.

When Wahlberg finally stages a fistfight with another actor, it has an explosive feel, as if we've been tensing up for the entire movie right along with him, staying quiet and pensive, and finally letting it out. Wahlberg knew well enough to keep the tone way down, and Gray was smart enough to take advantage of it.

If Wahlberg is great casting, the company as a whole is inspired: James Caan as a crooked company boss (he finally gets to play the Don!), Ellen Burstyn as Leo's ailing mother, Charlize Theron as Leo's cousin, Faye Dunaway as Caan's well-to-do wife, the raw, talented Joaquin Phoenix as the buddy, and the piece de resistance, crooner Steve Lawrence as the Queens borough President. (The first time Lawrence appears on screen, Gray makes him look like a typical movie mobster, not only creating a surprise in casting, but making a telling statement between crime and politics.) This cadre performs like a team. They come together easily to work the flow of cross-conversation and ad lib, and they make the more structured scenes click like clockwork.

Moments of slick predictability aside, Gray uses that cast to create a classic tragedy, taking eternal themes from some of history's great storytelling. While that always carries with it a sense of timelessness and honor, Gray adds the kind of design and style that make The Yards his own, and casts Mark Wahlberg in an increasingly more impressive light.

The film's DVD release features a number of extras that fans will surely love, including a commentary track and a making-of documentary, but ultimately the extra material doesn't stand up well next to the film as a whole.

Wahlberg and Phoenix get outta the Yard.



The Yards

Facts and Figures

Run time: 115 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 27th April 2000

Box Office USA: $0.4M

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Production compaines: Miramax Films, Industry Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 61 Rotten: 34

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Leo Handler, as Willie Gutierrez, as Erica Soltz, as Frank Olchin, as Val Handler, as Kitty Olchin, as Arthur Mydanick, Andy Davoli as Raymond Price (as Andrew Davoli), as Seymour Korman, as Paul Lazarides, as Manuel Sequiera, as Hector Gallardo, as Albert Granada, Chad Aaron as Bernard Soltz, Louis Guss as Nathan Grodner

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Since its true story is still so timely after some 150 years, we can forgive...

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

This reunion of actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg feels like a natural successor...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Ransom Riggs' bestselling novel is appropriately adapted into a movie by Tim Burton, the gothic...

Get Back Movie Review

Get Back Movie Review

Roger Appleton's documentary 'Get Back' looks into the music scene that come out of Liverpool....

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Advertisement
Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.