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The Yards

Mark Wahlberg switches gears from his recent "Perfect Storm" outing to play a introverted ex-con struggling to become a productive citizen.


Leo Handler (Wahlberg) is a shy inmate who's released after a 2-year stint in the penitentiary for grand theft auto. Ashamed of his criminal past, his only desire is to finally become a standup citizen to make his mom proud. But his eagerness to get a well-paying job to help support his ailing mother leads him to work with his uncle (James Caan), who, by the way, hasn't become rich and influential by being a straight arrow. The short-lived job pulls Leo into the world of conspiracy and even murder.


Put Caan in any bad-guy role and you can bet he's going to rise to the top. Here, the veteran actor steals just about every scene he's in, personifying the epitome of a sleazy businessman. Willie Guitierrez (Joaquin Phoenix, "Gladiator") is the right-hand man who does all the dirty work, a part he plays with ease, while Wahlberg's performance leaves little to be desired. He comes off dull and ordinary.


James Gray ("Little Odessa") has directed a crime drama that could have spent a bit more time in the editing room. There's only so long an audience will buy that a fugitive can hide from the New York City police, especially when he's hiding out at him mom's house. Puh-leeze! The ending sequence is further marred by a Hollywood cliché (a grand jury trial) that has become all too common.

Bottom Line

Not necessarily an old-school crime drama. Call it drama light.