Director James Gray's "The Yards" is a noir-ish thriller set in the corrupt world of New York's cavernous subway yards. Mark Wahlberg stars as the soft-spoken Leo, a freshly released con returning to the bosom of his Italian-American family. Leo took the rap for his buddies who are now blue-collar high rollers and determined to return the favour by setting him up with a job. He quickly starts working with the less than honest Willie (Phoenix) at his uncle's ("Godfather" veteran James Caan) subway yards, but is soon left holding the bat when a midnight raid on a rival yard goes wrong, and he knocks a cop into a coma.
Gray avoids the more obvious gangster clichés, and the film brings some genuinely original flourishes to the genre. The cast works hard to convey the paranoid claustrophobia of the gang mentality, and explore the temptations that the promise of quick money brings. The yawning subway yards and murky company offices provide a suitably bleak film noir mood, and the whole corrupt world of contracts and underworld subterfuge is all too plausible as the plot builds with creeping menace. Sadly however the film's narrative power seems to falter midway, and the climax doesn't quite deliver the punch the first half promises.
Films about New York wise-guys do have a tough time, and it's hard to shine too brightly in the shadow of films like "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas". But then, if you can't walk the walk, maybe you shouldn't talk the talk…Read our interviews with Joaquin Phoenix and director James Gray.
Visit the official The Yards website.
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