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Miramax Pictures presents
The Yards: Exclusive Unrated Director's Cut (2000)

"My aunt's new husband has his own business. He's very, very important."
- Leo (Mark Wahlberg)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: January 25, 2006

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron
Other Stars: Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burstyn, James Caan
Director: James Gray

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult language, violence)
Run Time: 01h:54m:14s
Release Date: December 13, 2005
UPC: 786936281309
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+A-B+ B+

DVD Review

The careers of Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, and Joaquin Phoenix began on decidedly different paths, all of which have led to stardom. Theron has her chameleonic beauty; Phoenix, his quiet intensity; and Wahlberg, his tough guy persona. Having such talent converge on one project isn't exactly rare, but it's almost always something special, and this is the case with The Yards, which made its way to American theatres in the fall of 2000. Despite being generally praised by critics, a wide theatrical release was never in the cards. With such a stellar cast of both up-and-coming young actors and veterans such as James Caan, Faye Dunaway, and Ellyn Burstyn, the poor domestic box-office numbers were surprising. It did find an audience internationally, however, becoming a Jury Selection at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.

Leo (Wahlberg) is an ex-con, out of prison after a 16-month sentence for grand theft auto. Going home with the intent of finding a respectable job, Leo has a positive outlook. When he discovers that this job requires a lengthy training period, Leo is tempted to take a huge risk. This struggle between his past and future is decided when Leo's attempt to recreate his close relationship with his aunt (Dunaway), who is now married to Frank Olchin (Caan), a subway management bigwig. Frank's right-hand man, Willie (Joaquin Phoenix), takes Leo out one night and his past comes back to haunt him in the form of police trouble. This in turn puts pressure on Leo's mother (Burstyn) and cousin Erica (Theron) to decide whether to help Leo or protect the well-being of the family, which now includes Frank and Willie.

The Yards is a labor of love by director James Gray (Little Odessa) that only gets better with repeat viewings. It's been available on DVD since 2001, but is still struggling to find a following. The initial DVD release featured the theatrical cut, while the version on this new "exclusive unrated" director's cut disc is one that was screened for test audiences. In comparing the two, there aren't many differences, but this new version is a bit shorter and seems to be a bit better paced. Plus, film buffs can never argue with having a project at their disposal in the way that its director originally intended.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: As with the first release, The Yards is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This anamorphically enhanced presentation is very impressive with very few noticeable flaws. This is a predominately dark film, but it never quite uses absolute blacks. Instead, everything seems to have an intended green and yellow tint to it, regardless of whether the scene takes place during the night or day, giving it a unique look. Contrast is handled well throughout, as the few bright scenes are as detailed and good-looking as the numerous night scenes. While this transfer doesn't look much different from the first one, things have been polished a bit, and dirt and grain has been reduced to a minimum.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is virtually identical to the first release, again presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This mix suits the film quite well, and, while not a particularly active presentation, it does have its moments. Bass is used a great deal, and is especially impressive during a nightclub scene, where the dance music rocks the subwoofer. The dialogue is always clear and crisp, regardless of the rest of the sound activity.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Great Raid, The Brothers Grimm, Secuestro Express, Underclassman
8 Deleted Scenes
2 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1. Writer/director James Gray & director Steven Soderbergh2. Writer/director James Gray
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Roundtable Discussion With Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, James Caan, and James Gray
  2. Original Concept Art
Extras Review: All of the extras from the original DVD are on this iteration, but Miramax has gone above and beyond with even more supplements. There's not one but two commentary tracks, including the one recorded for the previous release with director James Gray. Gray describes the production of his film in great detail, giving us a sense of just how important this project is to him.

The new commentary track is with Gray and acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh. This is by far the better of the two discussions, as Soderbergh brings the same insight and humor he's delivered on commentary tracks for his own films. The two pick apart The Yards, with Soderbergh offering a welcome outsiders' point of view.

Another new supplement is a recent 30-minute roundtable discussion with Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, James Caan, and Gray in which they reminisce on the making of The Yards. Listening to them talk amongst themselves is priceless.

The other new additions are eight deleted scenes that can be viewed with or without Gray's commentary, and Visualizing The Yards, a 12-minute segment where Gray talks about how he came up with the overall look. Cinematographer Harris Savides also talks about how important Gray's initial concept art was to his work on the picture.

Other standbys from the first release include a pretty standard 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, some original concept art, and the theatrical trailer for the feature. There's also the standard sneak peeks for other DVD releases.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

A gritty crime drama that can stand up with the best of its kind, The Yards is buoyed by an unforgettable ensemble cast. After an initial 2001 DVD release, Miramax has re-released the film as an "exclusive unrated" director's cut. The video has been cleaned up a bit, the audio remains strong, and the original extras from the first release are intact. There are additional bonus materials, making this a fulfilling, comprehensive release of an underappreciated movie.


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