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Arts and Entertainment

Movie Review: Yonkers Joe

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Did you see the size of the ass on that woman? | Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Chazz Palminteri fans be warned: at first glance, Yonkers Joe (written and directed by Robert Celestino) may appear to be a project of the same high caliber with which the actor typically associates himself. However, from the film's first lackluster, opening scene at a race track somewhere on the dirty, dismal outskirts of Atlantic City, it becomes apparent that this may not be one of his most popular cinematic choices.

As we witness Yonkers Joe (Chazz Palminteri) getting the gambling down-low from his close confidant and partner, Stanley (Michael Lerner), we learn that times are tough for the lifelong con-man with a nagging conscience, who has a keen eye for craps and card games. He is distraught over his inability to win by cheating in casinos and determined to do something about it.

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I will make my arms look stiff because my character is a tough guy. | Photo courtesy of Magnolia PicturesYet, as luck would have it, Joe's son, Joey (Tom Guiry), becomes the object which propels him to act. Joey is a boy struggling with physical and mental disabilities, as well as uncontrollable violent outbursts, who is unfortunately being turned away by the authorities at his school. It seems that Joey's disabilities have progressed beyond anything anyone is capable of handling and the care and nurturing available at an expensive group home is his only answer.

The answer for Joe, however, is clear. He must find a way to afford the care his son so desperately deserves before the group home enrollment deadlines pass and he eagerly hatches one of the riskiest, most common money-making schemes ever to grace gambling films: he'll play the tested and true bait-and-switch game with a couple of craps dice and if he's lucky, nobody behind the casino security cameras will notice. The problem is not that the outcome of this dog and pony show is unintentionally funny, but that this is a critical climax in the film and it lacks a certain sense of urgency and purpose. It all comes across as very "made for Lifetime Television" meets Casino.

Tom Guiry's performance as a mentally-challenged teenager falls flat, though likely not for lack of trying on his part as he is still mostly, believably retarded. The "tough guy" dialogue fails at times and the pacing of the story is such that it's possible to squeeze a nap in and awake to feel like much wasn't missed (literally!). If anything positive can be said, it all goes back to Mr. Chazz Palminteri, who, like a dependable underdog at a racetrack, steadily forges onward, attempting to carry the film from rocky start to finish. The result is mediocre success that makes Yonkers Joe a film worth waiting to see, but only on DVD.

Yonkers Joe is currently playing at the Sunset 5