70 – The Yards

Mark Wahlberg (Three Kings) plays Leo, an ex-con car thief who’s trying toget his life back together with his ailing mom (Ellen Burstyn), but he finds himself drawn back into a nasty web of deceit and murder. Yeah, aren’t they all? Just once, I’d like to see a movie in which the guy leaves prison a
changed man and then actually DOES stay straight. What’s that? It wouldn’t be interesting? Touche, mon frere.

All would be wonderful if Leo could just go straight, but those things never work out that way. Hey, Michael Corleone couldn’t go straight in Godfather III, so why should this loser? He’ll be good, he promises. He’ll get a job at the railroad station with his uncle Frank (James Caan). Only that doesn’t
quite work out, either; his old pal Willie (Joaquin Phoenix, wooden as always) wants him to work with HIM in the railroad yards. With all this tugging going on, our boy Leo’s feeling a bit overwhelmed. Where will he go? (Does it matter?)

In brief, there’s murder and stuff. Cops get involved. The boys from the old neighborhood, those knockabout toughs of yore, involve Leo in bad things. The funny thing is, Wahlberg plays him as this innocent naif who seems as clueless as Little Orphan Annie might have been in the same situation. There are times when he appears crime-savvy, but for the most part, a wide-eyed state, mouth agape, is the character’s trademark.

Wahlberg seems to be sleepwalking through this escapade, and his supporting cast – strong as it is on paper – is no better. Burstyn has a thankless dying-mom role; Faye Dunaway plays her sister. You’d be hard-pressed to see a lot of life from either actress. Caan is becoming more of a caricature of his old-time tough-guy self; he’s still fun to watch, but his performane is a little too one-note for me. And we also have Charlize Theron as Willie’s fiance. Could someone please tell me WHY this young lady took this role? She looks horrid, and the role’s not nearly meaty enough for her to enjoy. In short, anyone in the world could have performed the character, and Theron herself didn’t add anything to it.

With that tremendous cast, and with a small amount of hype involved, I expected a far better film. This one is moody, somnabulent, and dull; a vapid pastiche of overwrought and underwhelming performances.

The Yards: 4

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