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Here’s more terse, grim outer-borough family tragedy from writer-director James Gray, whose first film, Little Odessa, had many of the same motifs. This time the black-sheep son is Leo (Mark Wahlberg), fresh out of prison, and the long-suffering mother is played by Ellen Burstyn. Arriving home, Leo finds that his pal Willie (Joaquin Phoenix) is engaged to his favorite cousin, Erica (Charlize Theron), and involved in shady work for Erica’s stepfather, Frank (James Caan), who recently married Leo’s aunt (Faye Dunaway). Frank runs a corrupt train-maintenance contracting firm that’s bribing the Queens borough president (Steve Lawrence!) and is locked in a life-or-death struggle with a Latino-owned firm. Despite Frank’s misgivings, suave but ruthless Willie gets Leo involved in a sabotage mission that goes wrong at the Sunnyside Yards maintenance facility, and soon both childhood friends are in big trouble. Leo is instructed to skip town, but how can he leave his ailing mother—or abandon Erica to the increasingly menacing Willie? Severe and shadowy, the film is well-endowed with hard-boiled performances, working-class existentialism, and local color (mostly very dark). Considering how black the mood is, however, the relatively upbeat ending is unpersuasive. —Mark Jenkins