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Dennis Farina as "Joe May" and Other Gangsters We Love

Photo of Caryn James By Caryn James | James on Screens October 31, 2011 at 3:00AM

Dennis Farina as "Joe May" and Other Gangsters We Love
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Joe

There are gangsters we love for their badness, and others – more poignant, more affecting – who take soul-changing action at the last minute, redeeming their earlier crimes. In Joe Maggio’s sharply-drawn The Last Rites of Joe May, Dennis Farina gives a stirring yet unsentimental performance as an aging, mob-connected Chicago crook who makes one of those heroic final gestures. (“Last” is right there in the title; you can’t be too surprised at the finality).

Joe’s big-time dreams never came close to reality. By the time he gets out of the hospital after a long stay, his apartment has been given to a single mother (Jamie Anne Allman, Rosie’s suspicious aunt from The Killing) and her young daughter. She can use some rent money; he needs a place to stay. But the actors give such delicate performances that they avoid the saccharine pathos that plot suggests. There is even a great tragi-comic set piece in which Joe, desperate to get back in his old game, treks around Chicago trying to peddle a 50-pound slab of frozen lamb. Maggio’s (Virgil Bliss) film may be small, but it’s full of texture.

The grand gesture? Maybe you’ll see it coming, but it arrives with a visceral thud to the heart. Farina, who has played tough guys on both side of the law, makes Joe May a touching addition to the long line of gangsters gone good. Take a look, in this separate post, at some Other Gangsters We Love.

The Last Rites of Joe May is on VOD now, and opens in theaters in NY on Nov. 4th


This article is related to: Movie Reviews

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