From the start, Yonkers Joe pitches the spectator directly into a world of tough-talking gamblers and sharks, where the dice are loaded, hands move quickly, and there’s always a scam in the offing. This milieu of casinos and parking lots, peopled with hustlers and hookers, is a familiar film setting, but one that’s produced remarkably few good films. Though the subject at hand seems ideally suited to cinema, allowing for a closer look at all the sleights and feints of card-sharp’s or crap-shooter’s trade, films such as Hard Eight, Shade, The Cooler, and this year’s 21 all mine similar material with a range of mostly disappointing results.
With Yonkers Joe, Robert Celestino means to invigorate a recognizable scenario — the con man’s last big job — with yet another workaday film genre: the family drama. The titular character, played by a slender and nonchalant Chazz Palminteri, is all business, casually cooking up and executing schemes in the banal world of Atlantic City gambling. But there’s also a Joe Jr., a twentysomething with Down Syndrome whom Joe pere has placed in a full-time care facility. Not the most attentive father imaginable, Yonkers Joe seems inclined to forget his son’s existence. But after beating up one of the home’s staff, the vociferously horny and obscenity-prone Joe Jr. is sent to live with his reluctant old man.
Click here to read the rest of Leo Goldsmith’s review of Yonkers Joe.