The Yards

A disappointing follow-up to Little Odessa, James Gray’s second feature is one more sluggish, artfully framed thriller with Rembrandt lighting set in a New York borougha kind of picture that’s awfully hard to do in a fresh manner. The closest Gray comes is in coaxing strong performances out of his older actors (James Caan, Ellen Burstyn, and Faye Dunaway in a smaller part), much as he did with Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell in his previous film. He’s less lucky with his three leads (Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, and Joaquin Phoenix), who can’t manage to conjure up much sustained interest as characters or even as presences; there’s something about the lugubrious art-movie ambience that swamps them. 108 min. (JR)

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