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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
The New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) initially refused permission to film on its property. The filmmakers decided to film at an old abandoned freight yard and a studio set. Finally, a deal was reached allowing one scene to be shot inside the 207th Street Car Shop and Yard on NYCTA property. See more »
The cars in the "subway yard" are not actually subway cars; they are circa-1963 suburban commuter coaches for the Metro-North & Long Island Railroads. See more »
. . . you know you've got a movie that tried something different. Not NEW, necessarily, as The Yards is paced, structured and shot like it was made before 1976. But you don't see that often these days. The Yards is an entertaining and noble attempt at a tribute to crime films of that era. I have friends who don't have the attention span to sit through The Godfather(on some days neither do I) - I wouldn't recommend this film to them. Reared as our younger generation was on Spielbergian and MTV-cut films, the pacing of both that film and The Yards are slow and deliberate - sometimes hard to take. The Yards could have used a bit of tightening up in editing, just seconds off of a scene here, a scene there to move things along, but still, it's a strong film. The first thing that caught my eye was the sparse dialogue. There's a lot of acting going on here, and not of the scenery-chewing variety (recent Pacino). The actors are given a lot of room to act with their eyes and bodies. You're not hit over the head with 2-D stock characters, although it may appear so at first. The story is genre: ex-con, returning to his New York borough neighborhood falls right into the same circles that got him in trouble in the first place. What follows is a story of corruption, redemption and family; structured almost as a Greek Tragedy. But quietly. There are no "good guys" or "bad guys", as almost everyone is on the make. The overall impression projected is that everyone is protecting their own and trying to succeed in a system that they live in - not one they created or control.
Mark Wahlberg isn't a great actor, but he delivers what the character requires. Charlize Theron isn't in her element playing a Queens-chick, but aside from a faltering accent, she does pretty well. Excellent acting is delivered by Joachin Phoenix, as well as veterans Caan, Dunaway, and Ellen Burstyn. The Yards is a good movie, although admittedly, not for the "average" movie-going audience. It likely won't meet their expectations of what a "good" movie is.
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