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Tribeca Film Festival 2008: "Yonkers Joe" Tells Story Of Con Man's Redemption

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Tough-guy actor Chazz Palminteri may be at the helm of “Yonkers Joe,” but the story of a con man with a heart of gold and a son with Down Syndrome pulls at heartstrings. NY1’s George Whipple filed the following report.

"Yonkers Joe" premiered this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. It stars Chazz Palminteri as a small- time con man and dice hustler in search of the perfect scam. He hangs around a group of men known as “mechanics,” who shave dice and mark cards.

"The movie's not just a gambling movie,” said Palminteri. “It's about a guy whose son is 21 years old with Down syndrome and wants to come live with his father. And he really doesn't want his son there. His son redeems him and he redeems his son."

Christine Lahti, who plays Palminteri's girlfriend Janice, said the movie touches upon profound subjects.

"I think it's a movie about redemption and about a second chance, or in Janice's case - a sort of last chance at a family and she's determined to make that happen," said Lahti.

Tom Guiry found it very difficult to play Joe, Jr. - the son with Down syndrome.

Whipple: It's not an easy role to play.

Guiry: No, it was probably one of the most difficult ones I had to play. I did a lot of research on it, and I tried to do the best I could, and I tried to do it the most justice I possibly could.

"I didn't want to see another movie where it's about a pool player that doesn't know how to hold a pool stick,” said director Robert Celestino. “Chazz really learned how to create this atmosphere nuance with the character. So Chazz Palminteri is Yonkers Joe, absolutely."

The mechanics were played by some of the industry’s strongest character actors.

"There are people on this planet that actually make a living doing that, believe it or not, and I know none of them - although I love them all," said actor Arthur Nascarella.

"For me it was like playing a part that was like a regular guy even though he's a mechanic. I like that. I like that. It was fun," said actor Michael Lerner.

- George Whipple

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