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The Yards

Year: 2000
Production Co: industry Entertainment
Studio: Disney
Director: James Gray
Writer: James Gray
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Joachium Phoenix, Ellen Burstyn, James Caan, Charlize Theron, Faye Dunaway, Steve Lawrence
The Yards is what plenty of action thrillers aspire to be but few achieve. As much a dramatic character study as a thriller, it tells the story of Leo (Wahlberg, in a curious coincidence sharing the same name he did in Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes ), who returns home from prison to his impoverished New York neighbourhood and simple but loving family.

He wants nothing more than put his former life behind him and go straight. But almost immediately, one of the creepy friends he took the fall for, Willie (Phoenix) put him back on a dark path.

Seeming now to have a respectable job in business amid the industry of contractors who maintain New York's rail system, Willie is instead a standover man who sabotages competitors' work and reputations to ensure the contracts go to the firm of the family patriarch, Frank (Caan).

When Leo is present at the murder of a rail official and has to violently bash a cop to escape, he has to go on the run while Willie and his gang again stay in the clear.

Mixed up in it all is Leo's beautiful cousin (and Willie's girlfriend) Erica (Theron), and while Leo tries to stay out of harms way, he has to assess who's really on his side as one by one the people around him start covering their own interests in the ensuing scandal.

Honest and realistic performances and palpable relationships make it an endearing drama, a stark, bleak backdrop and aesthetic of danger make it an effective thriller, and the backdrop of big business corruption in the real world keep it from being a 'small-time thugs with their own little problem' type of story.

Wahlberg gives the second earnest acting performance of his career (after Boogie Nights), and everyone else, from Theron and Phoenix to Ellen Burstyn, James Cann and Faye Dunaway, do their reputations proud.

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