Mark Wahlberg as Leo Handler
Joaquin Phoenix as Willie Gutierrez
Charlize Theron as Erica Stoltz
James Caan as Frank Olchin
Ellen Burstyn as Val Handler
Faye Dunaway as Kitty Olchin
Steve Lawrence as Arthur Mydanick
Andrew Davoli as Raymond Price
Tony Musante as Seymour Korman
Victor Argo as Paul Lazarides
Tomas Milian as Manuel Sequiera
Robert Montano as Hector Gallardo
Victor Arnold as Albert Granada
Chad Aaron as Bernard Stoltz
Louis Guss as Nathan Grodner
Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary By Director James Gray
Roundtable Discussion With Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, James Caan, And James Gray
Feature Commentary By Directors James Gray & Steven Soderbergh
Visualizing The Yards
Original Concept Art
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 115 Minutes
This film was originally released in 2000. The following text is from the DVD cover:
“The Miramax Collector’s Series presents the unrated director’s cut of the motion picture acclaimed by critics and moviegoers alike. Mark Wahlberg (The Italian Job), Joaquin Phoenix (Ladder 49), and Academy Award®-winner Charlize Theron (Best Actress, Monster, 2003) power this riveting crime thriller! Just out of jail, an innocent man (Wahlberg) becomes the target of the most ruthless family in town … his own! Also starring James Caan (The Godfather trilogy), Faye Dunaway (The Rules of Attraction), and Ellen Burstyn (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood).”
This is the unrated director’s cut of The Yards, but the theatrical version was rated R for language, violence and a scene of sexuality.
I missed The Yards when it was first released in 2000. However, upon viewing this unrated director’s cut, I wasn’t all that impressed. The Yards is a great looking film with some fine performances, but it’s rather slow and ultimately unsatisfying. The theme of the film is “bad friends corrupt good character”. That’s the case with Mark Wahlberg as Leo Handler who is pulled back into a life of crime after getting out of jail. His friend Willie, played by Joaquin Phoenix, leads him astray then hangs him out to dry when things go bad. Unfortunately, the final result is that there’s not a single character in the film that is likable or sympathetic. Leo lets himself get pulled into crime fairly easily and all of his friends are thugs, too. It makes it hard to find someone to like.
The performances are fine. Mark Wahlberg is well intentioned but somewhat dim witted as Leo Handler. Joaquin Phoenix is oddly cast as a Hispanic man named Willie Gutierrez, but he makes a good enforcer with psychological problems. Charlize Theron plays New Jersey trash as Erica Stoltz. Then you have James Caan playing the stereotypical mob boss as Frank Olchin, Ellen Burstyn as Val Handler, and Faye Dunaway as Kitty Olchin. Unfortunately the story doesn’t live up to their performances.
Director James Gray has made a great looking film. The locations are moody and lighted in interesting ways. The sound is also put to good use as train noises play an important part in setting the tone of scenes. I never saw the theatrical version, but this director’s cut is actually shorter than the original edition. I think that’s a first for a director’s cut. In the end I’d really only recommend The Yards to fans of Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, James Caan, and Charlize Theron. Everyone else may find it too slow and unsatisfying to be worth checking out.
There are actually some substantial bonus features included on the DVD. There is a very long roundtable discussion with Caan, Wahlberg, Theron, and director James Grey. It takes place some years after the movie was released, so they talk candidly about the making of the movie, the reaction to it, and more. It’s actually a very interesting discussion. There’s also a featurette entitled “Visualizing The Yards” where James Grey talks about storyboarding the film and creating paintings to set the lighting and colors for the movie. Also included is a commentary with director James Grey and Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh had nothing to do with the making of the movie, but he prompts discussion and asks questions of the director along the way. The result is a pretty good commentary. You’ll also find your standard deleted scenes, trailers, behind the scenes featurette, and concept art.