Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Starring: Sam Witwer, Armand Assante, and Talia Shire
Written and Directed by: Sam Auster

"The Return of Joe Rich" is set in Chicago where every mob story should be set.  Joe Rich is a story about a son/nephew, Joe (Sam Witwer) returning to Chicago to live with his mother after the financial crisis hits him and he has lost everything.  Joe’s family is “connected.”  His Uncle Dom (Armand Assante) is the patriarch of this connected family and Joe "wants in".  As he says, “Crime does pay.”  How far will Joe go?  Is this type of work truly in his blood? 

As Joe moves back in to his childhood home, we see the immediate struggles any man moving back home would have.  These struggles are compounded by a very strong mother in an intimidating family. Joe's relationships with his mother and other family members appear to pick up right where they left off when Joe was young.  He also reunites with his long lost love adding the necessary love story in a rather brutal mob tale.  Joe sees first hand where loyalties truly lie and what kind of a person he actually is.  

Violence is a big part of this movie, but there are also some great comedic lines thrown in to balance the film. The rolling meatballs across the screen to segue from one scene into the next are reminiscent of Batman, taking the tension of the film down a level.  The home movies and the interviews with the “retired connected men” were the two aspects that keep this movie grounded and real.  These men were truly a part of “The Family.”   These old guys tell it like it was back in the day.  I can’t even begin to imagine the stories they could have told or maybe those stories are on the editing room floor!  Maybe it’s best that I don’t know!  The scenes of Joe pretending to shoot a gun in the bathroom add yet another level of entertainment in this film. No, not just because he shows off his six pack abs (although, that is a bonus!), but because it’s funny and immature in a serious movie.  He shows us that moving back home and living with mom in your late 20’s has it’s drawbacks!

Sam Witwer (a Glenview native), Armand Assante, Joe Minoso, Tim Kazurinsky, and Vanessa Vander Pluym are an outstanding cast.  Talia Shire plays Joe’s mom with a sense of ease and reality.  Uncle Dom (Armand Assante) is perfectly cast and I guarantee that I wouldn’t want to cross this guy in real life!  He plays a spot on mob boss; not that I’ve ever met one, but it’s how I imagine one!  Sam Witwer  takes on this rather complex role effortlessly.  The writing, directing and acting seem to meld seamlessly to give us a compelling story not just about the mob, but about people.

The movie ended and the director and actors took front and center to answer questions.  The director, Sam Auster, is from Oak Park and shoots commercials as his day job.  His love is making movies.  Again, another movie shot on a shoestring budget in just 20 days.  The home movie footage in “Joe Rich” was from Sam’s family!  And I confirmed that the old guys were real.  Amazing!  Sam also described how scenes had to be shot over and over in alleys and definitely made the audience realize that not all aspects of making a movie are fun!  Sam has many other ideas for movies and when he finds that financial backer, we will be the lucky ones to benefit from seeing the completion of those movies.

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