Urban Cinefile
"I can hardly wait - I never get tired of Australia. "  -Keanu Reeves on filming Down Under
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday May 22, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Little does Leo Handler (Mark Wahlberg) know how fortuitous the train ride home from his stint in prison will be. Anxious to prove to his sickly mother (Ellen Burstyn) he's reformed, Leo asks his friend Willie (Joaquin Phoenix) - who's dating Leo's cousin Erica (Charlize Theron) - if he can fix him up with a job. Willie directs Leo to Erica's stepfather Frank (James Caan), a subway maintenance mogul, for whom Willie applies muscle in the yards. Facing few options other than joining Willie's thug-squad, Leo's first night on the job sees a cop in a coma, a yardmaster dead, and him a wanted man. As the relatives and friends deal with the tightening vise of the law, Leo must decide to keep quiet and go up for murder, or talk, and everyone goes down.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
If proving nothing more than writer-director James Gray is a formidable new talent, The Yards is his second - and equally bleak - family drama after Little Odessa in 1994. This railway yards crime drama runs on similar tracks, but if the material suffers from familiarity, Gray's direction is at once perfectly gritty, elegant, and stately. He recalls a quieter, more patient David Fincher, and his film recalls the sepia browns, grays and blacks of Fincher's Seven, The Game or Alien 3.

The family crime drama of The Yards - where everyone is connected - is like a compact version of The Godfather, with James Caan elevated to the level of a minor crime mogul who employs questionable tactics to covert lucrative subway contracts. Every cast member gives a terrifically restrained performance, from Caan's ambiguous boss to Wahlberg's un-street-smart small
timer. And you can almost see the tension bubble beneath the usually volatile Joaquin Phoenix.

It's all in the family here, and Gray proves, in his audio commentary on DVD, that the cast became a close-knit family while shooting The Yards. While dedicating much time to praising his cast, Gray gives a rather staid, scholarly reading of the film's making, from its colour tones to lighting to musical score to actor's inputs. His soothing voice almost puts you to sleep, so his fondness for slow movies is no surprise, where characters live in a world controlled by their fate, Gray builds the tension and (as he discusses) covers every minute detail, from Wahlberg's haircut to Ellen Burstyn and Faye Dunaway's glasses.

A behind-the-scenes featurette has the cast and crew heaping the usual praise on each other - which is to be expected from an ensemble of this calibre. Their biographies are, however, comprehensive. A largely overlooked film at the cinema, The Yards on DVD rides on little more than what it is; a powerful, almost classical film that could well be one of the year's finest.

Published January 24, 2002

Email this article

You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia


CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron, James Caan, Ellen
Burstyn, Faye Dunaway
DIRECTOR: James Gray

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

EXTRA FEATURES: Audio commentary with director James Gray, Behind the Scenes, Cast and crew biographies, Theatrical trailer, 2.35:1 transfer, 16:9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: January 23, 2002

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020