Yonkers Joe (Chazz Palminteri) is an old-school gambler who scams Atlantic City casinos, dances on the brink of commitment with his lovely accomplice, Janice (Christine Lahti), and fends off responsibility for his severely autistic teenage son, Joe Jr. (Tom Guiry). In terms of inspiration, Yonkers Joe (directed by Robert Celestino) breaks about even with its eponym. In the film’s most animated sequences, Joe and his crew are like a troupe of crooked magicians, out-dazzling each other with new tricks and devices, always looking not just for the biggest payout, but the most elaborate dupe. When Joe Jr. ages out of his treatment facility, Joe contemplates a risky pull, one that will yield enough money to send the boy to a home where the walls are perhaps padded with cashmere. The trio ends up in Vegas, where Janice’s diligent affection toward Joe Jr. backfires in the worst way imaginable, and the latter redeems himself by entering into his father’s hustling fray. Lahti burns through a thinly written role with a surprising level of warmth and humanity, and Guiry is at times repellently convincing as a kid genetically incapable of either nuance or fakery. Palminteri, though, looks tired of twitching his shoulders and working a pompadour in two-bit roles like this.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 7, 2009