Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
YONKERS JOE MOVIE REVIEW
Directed by: Robert Celestino
Running time: 101 minutes
Release date: January 9, 2009
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Crime and Coming of Age
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
Yonkers Joe is an exciting and very sensitive dramedy. Director and writer Robert Celestino spins a tale of how a single father with a mentally challenged teenage son finds time to raise his son, play the horses, run rigged crap games, fix winning poker hands and pull off a Vegas scam. Although the film has quite a bit of action in the storyline, Yonkers Joe has an underlying compassionate theme that leaves the audience with a warm feeling.
Yonkers Joe (Chazz Palminteri) is a leader of hard working daily gamblers who specialize in dice, cards and horses. He is a loving single father; however, he is a man who has problems. Joe is a responsible parent of a mentally challenged son named Joe Jr. portrayed brilliantly by Tom Guiry. Their small and dysfunctional family is a major theme in this film.
Yonkers Joe truly brings fine performances together. Joe Sr's incompetence as a parent is masterfully played by Chazz Palminteri. Academy Award-winner Christine Lahti plays Janice (Joe Sr.'s love interest) and Tom Guiry's performance shines as a misguided troublesome son who needs attention. This a family in which misbehavior and even abuse on the part of individual members of the family occur continually. In this case, Joe Jr. grows up in boarding schools and is the result of a dysfunctional single parent who has an addiction.
I was fascinated by the card tricks, dice cuffing and other magical demonstrations shown on screen by the performers. Joe Sr. leads an "Old Timers" crew who put together a plan to use their 20th century skills on a 21st century cyber-secured Las Vegas casino scam. This old motley crew of con artists find themselves in a high-stakes crap game against mobsters of Las Vegas using high tech monitors to control the action at the gambling table. The plot contains more twists than a treacherous mountain road, the ultimate scam is pulled off with consummate style and panache.
This ode to old time gamblers is honored by a host of great supporting players including Linus Roache, Michael Rispoli and Roma Maffia who pull off their con of all cons. These actors have backgrounds stemming from the stage, television, dance and film from the 1970s to the present day with various awards for their exceptionally fine work in all endeavors.
I found this to be an enlightening film tagged with a great moral factor. Bringing a family together and watching a child come of age with a disability is always poetic to me. I applaud New York City resident writer/director Robert Celestino for a great film.
Yonkers Joe depicts a genuinely emotional story of how people overcome enabling and perpetuating dysfunctional behavior. For the usual mediocre January films, this feel good movie stands out as a good family flick.
(FILM RATING B+)