In the rail yards of Queens, contractors repair and rebuild the city's subway cars. These contracts are lucrative, so graft and corruption are rife. When Leo Handler gets out of prison, he ... See full summary »
In the rail yards of Queens, contractors repair and rebuild the city's subway cars. These contracts are lucrative, so graft and corruption are rife. When Leo Handler gets out of prison, he finds his aunt married to Frank Olchin, one of the big contractors; he's battling with a minority-owned firm for contracts. Willie Gutierrez, Leo's best friend, is Frank's bag man and heads a crew of midnight saboteurs who ruin the work of the Puerto Rican-owned firm. Leo needs a job, so Willie pays him to be his back-up. Then things go badly wrong one night, a cop IDs Leo, and everyone now wants him out of the picture. Besides his ailing mom and his cousin Erica, to whom can Leo turn? Written by
Many consider the film noir to have died in 1958 after Orson Welles made Touch of Evil. It was deemed so perfect that no one really took a stab at true noir again. However, in the late 60's and early 70's, the noir revived as the crime film. It was less mysterious and relied more on criminals and such. Since Polanski's Chinatown in 1974, many movies inspire themselves from noir. The Yards is one of them.
Leo (Mark Wahlberg) is a young man just out of prison for car theft. He goes back home one night to find his family and friends throwing a party for him. Now that he is out of jail, Leo is looking for a job. He arranges with his friend Willie (Joaquin Phoenix) to try and get a job at Leo's uncle's (James Caan) company where Willie works. Willie is dating Leo's cousin by marriage, Erica (Charlize Theron). The family is completed by Erica's mother, played by Faye Dunaway, and Leo's mother, played by Ellen Burstyn. Leo goes to meet his uncle, who tells him that he would be perfect as a mechanic, but he'd have to take a two-year course. Leo wants the same job as his friend, which consists of `dealing with customers.' One night, he and Willie go out to negotiate and their deal turns awry. Soon, Leo is wanted for murder. But he didn't do it. Or did he? No, he didn't. Maybe he did. Watch the movie.
As in most film noir (and film noir inspirations), the plot is hard to follow. The story is intriguing enough to warrant a movie, but the way it is handled is less impressive. I have no idea what is done, but the movie manages to make the viewer drift away completely from the plot. Frequent plot changes take us to Leo's mother. Leo's mother is boring. All she does really is try and not have a heart attack. It's a shame when a gifted actress like Ellen Burstyn is given such a bare bones part.
Mark Wahlberg seems to have bitten off more than he can chew as Leo. While he has shown great talent in Boogie Nights and Three Kings, he seems `out of it' here. Charlize Theron shows pretty much the same talents as in The Devil's Advocate, that is, sobbing a lot and taking off her shirt. Dunaway and Burstyn, two grand actresses and Oscar-winners, are given very small, pointless roles. I could've very well seen anyone else in the part and the movie wouldn't have been spoiled for me. Phoenix comes out best as the slimy Willie. He is really one to watch, much more than Heath Ledger who may get girls ga-ga, but couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag. James Caan, on a Hollywood comeback since Mickey Blue Eyes, also gives a good performance in the handful of scenes he is in.
The Yards has much better mood than matter. The feeling of paranoia is well achieved, partly because of the brooding score, good photography and nice lighting tricks. However, the story is derivative and confused, the performances are so-so and the whole experience is sloppy. They get points for trying, but it never becomes as compelling as it should be. 5/10
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