Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1999. Miramax, Industry Entertainment. Screenplay by James Gray, Matt Reeves. Cinematography by Harris Savides. Produced by Kerry Orent, Paul Webster, Nick Wechsler. Music by Howard Shore. Production Design by Kevin Thompson. Costume Design by Michael Clancy. Film Editing by Jeffrey Ford. Film Festivals: Cannes 2000, TIFF 2000.
James Gray’s career is marked by films that are rich with atmosphere and intensity, and while this one’s narrative is one of his weakest, it does not disappoint on those previous counts at all. Essentially his big studio breakout after the success of his first indie drama Little Odessa, The Yards suffered the ravages of studio interference that saw its release delayed and its final edit turned into a major debacle (which is probably the reason for the film’s dissatisfying ending). The mammoth cast of great heavyweights is headed by Mark Wahlberg as a young man who is released from prison and goes home to a grateful mother (Ellen Burstyn) who is hoping for nothing but the best from now on. A life of crime is much too easy to fall back into, however, and Wahlberg is soon prowling the train yards of the New York Transit system for his best friend Joaquin Phoenix, sabotaging the work of a rival company looking to take repair contracts away from their shady boss (James Caan). When Wahlberg finds himself a wanted man who is about to take the entire blame for the group’s crimes, he goes into hiding and realizes that he has very few people left he can trust. Faye Dunaway and Charlize Theron are also featured in the cast, and while Gray’s work would improve vastly with We Own The Night and the masterful Two Lovers, this is still one that his fans are wise to check out.