New York-born writer-director James Gray makes movies that are at once lyrical, psychologically astute, and as hard-boiled and riveting as a Warner Bros. 1930s genre picture. The Yards is Gray’s melodramatic and thrilling second feature, a story of family bonds and city corruption.
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A fine example of American Cinema, with all of its conventions, but without graphic violence or pandering. James Gray's Queens and Brooklyn dramas are a body of work that honor those Boroughs with character and distinction and make the viewer feel as though they were our home, not just his. 4++
Despite a great cast, none of the characters evolve in any way over the course of the film. Joaquin is the flippant narcissist, Mark is the unlucky introvert and there were obvious hints at the past relationship between him and Charlize Theron's character almost immediately. The dingy cinematography had a noir-ish tint at times, but I was never really blown away by any particular shot or sequence.
Real life intervenes in our perceptions of these people in the movies. Turns out Marky Mark is not such a nice fellow after all. Once again the white boy walks away clean. The standard joke applies here. This movie has lots of great actors. Oh, and Marky Mark was in the movie too.
I've moved in reverse order with Gray's filmography and unless Little Odessa is some kind of aberrant mess, it would seem as if he emerged fully formed as the greatest American modernist since Cimino. The Yards is as operatic a view of American corruption as The Godfather, yet it has a raw humanity in the jaundiced frame that never lets people become mere symbols. Astonishing.
James Gray achieves a rare thing with "The Yards", in combining classical drama respecting most of the codes and stylistic implications of the crime & mafia genre, and bringing a true new breath by including ambiguous characters and an interesting and unexpected setting (the train industry). Theron is great, and Wahlberg could even convince you that he's not such a bad actor. Always good to see James Caan in form.
James Gray has a unique way to give a biblical or mythical dimension to his characters. Like Tim Roth in Little Odessa, Mark Wahlberg will destroy the frail harmony that ties up his family. Neither Wahlberg nor Roth is the prodigal son in James Gray's gloomy word. Masterpiece.