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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look42.86%
Average: 38.1%
Pretty Bad: 14.29%
Total Crap: 4.76%

2 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Yards, The
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by Erik Childress

"Familiar Material Overshadows Interesting Corruption Angle"
3 stars

Let me tell you a story. Stop me if you’ve heard it before. There’s this guy, see, and he’s just got out of jail. He never ratted on any of his friends so he’s OK in their book. He’s looking to start over. His life, that is. Get a legit job. Stay clean. All that good stuff. But the allure of quick money over hard work points him down the wrong path. And faster than you can say Carlito’s Way, a murder has been committed and he’s running for his life. Oh I’m sorry. You’ve heard this story before? Well, so have I.

Mark Wahlberg plays Leo Handler, the guy with the temporarily new lease on life. He is welcomed by a homecoming of virtually the entire cast of characters including his ailing mother, Val (Ellen Burstyn), and her sister Kitty (Faye Dunaway). Leo also has the beautiful cousin, Erica (Charlize Theron), who is now dating his best friend, Willie Gutierrez (Joaquin Phoenix), and has a new stepfather, Frank Olchin (James Caan), a very influential player in the railroad business.

Frank (with an office that looks like Brando’s in The Godfather) offers Leo a job that will require some technical training. Who’s got the time for that? He would much rather attend the secret meetings attended by his good friend, Willie, who is the railroad business’ equivalent of Red in The Shawshank Redemption or Poldek Pfefferberg in Schindler’s List. He’s the guy that can get you things, including into trouble. Ole’ Willie is loyal to Leo and his people, but when a late night exchange goes the backfire route, it’s time for a little gut check on where everyone’s loyalties lie.

The Yards was written and directed by James Gray, whose previous film, Little Odessa, starred Tim Roth as a gangster coming back home to his troubled family. Here, he overextends himself by trying to introduce some fresh material into a story we’ve all heard before. If he would have concentrated on the corruption angle between the railroad people and the city officials, we might have had something really interesting. But by taking the turn into ex-con on the run territory, he denies us the opportunity to see all the behind closed door deals that make the trains run on time.

Despite all the same path, different movie cliches, there are good points to the film. Performances are all right in line, even if Wahlberg does nothing special here to address his range as an actor. Joaquin Phoenix is actually tolerable in this film; much better than he was in Gladiator. Charlize Theron continues to impress in what could have been just another standby-girlfriend character. Here is a terrific actress who probably gets underappreciated only because she seems to be in every other movie that comes out these days. Burstyn and Dunaway work admirably with limited scenes and what can you say about James Caan? His Uncle Frank character is made all the more interesting because he’s not shown as your run-of-the-mill Godfather of evil. He’s a businessman who, refreshingly, doesn’t just immediately want someone killed when the blood hits the fan. Sure, he’s angry, but why throw murder on top of murder until all the options are considered.

If The Yards had concentrated solely on Frank’s business instead of drumming up the same old plot of murder gone wrong. There are fascinating scenes dealing with the corruption angle of the railroad, especially a late scene at a town meeting when favors are paid off through every branch of the business, including the cops. But for every interesting scene like that, we get one of the standard ones too.

The Yards is not a bad film by any stretch, just a familiar one that stretches itself out over the course of about six different endings. It becomes maddening to watch as it just goes on and on and on, so wanting to connect all the dots all at once that it combines scenes that just don’t seem to be plausible. I mean would seriously bad news be delivered by three cops, demanding all kinds of attention in the middle of a public meeting. There’s a visual style that commands our attention as well as one of those film school motifs of the lights continuing to go out. Even the traditional street fight gets an approach that feels as realistic as the corruption that it springs out of. Family secrets, old wounds and old material all fill in the blanks of a story that you haven’t just heard about before, but have also seen. The Yards is not a bad film. It’s just too bad it couldn’t go the whole nine.

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originally posted: 10/23/00 10:33:57
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User Comments

2/14/08 action movie fan we own the night was gray,s best film-this is lame 2 stars
2/02/04 Gabriela The movie isn´t great, but Phoenix' acting is. He´s the best thing about the movie. 4 stars
6/29/03 Jack Sommersby Well-acted (especially by Caan), but the material is SOOOOOO cliched. 2 stars
9/28/02 JesseL Great cast underperforming themselves in poor script that is B - O - R - I - N - G 1 stars
4/01/02 KMG I always had this impending sense of doom or was it boredom? 3 stars
12/02/01 The Bomb 69 cliched movie that was good but not great 4 stars
10/29/01 daniboy very good film. strange but i think marky mark did a great job 4 stars
10/18/00 Michael.V A disappointment when compared to Little Odessa. 3 stars
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  20-Oct-2000 (R)
  DVD: 12-Apr-2011


  03-May-2001 (M)

Directed by
  James Gray

Written by
  James Gray
  Matt Reeves

  Ellen Burstyn
  James Caan
  Faye Dunaway
  Joaquin Phoenix
  Charlize Theron
  Mark Wahlberg

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