Review: ‘The Return of Joe Rich’

The eponymous Jewish-Sicilian protagonist will do just about anything to break into the family business in "The Return of Joe Rich," a muddled homage to the Chicago mob.

The eponymous Jewish-Sicilian protagonist will do just about anything to break into the family business in “The Return of Joe Rich,” a muddled homage to the Chicago mob. Commercials director Sam Auster stocks the pic with some recognizable names, but mixes comedy, action, romance and bloody black humor like an iPod on continuous shuffle. Result is a crude, indigestible mess that will find its primary audience in ancillary.

His livelihood a victim of the latest recession, Joe (buff Sam Witwer, the brooding vampire from SyFy’s “Being Human”) returns home to beg his maternal uncle Dom (snarling Armand Assante) for an entry-level position in the “outfit.” Joe fails Dom’s trial mission and suffers the consequences meted out by Dom’s crony Petey B. (Tim Kazurinsky). With the help of childhood pal Bernard (Joe Minoso), Joe cooks up another plan — along with his mother’s (Talia Shire) meatballs — but ensuing events fail to conform to his recipe. Preening tech package serves up annoying MTV-style editing, silly visual wipes and odd camera angles. Talking-head interviews with unidentified elderly mob guys who provide a Greek-chorus commentary on the action rep the pic’s most original element.

The Return of Joe Rich

Production

A Return of Joe Rich production. Produced by Sam Auster, Marol Butcher, Chris Monte, Robert Bernacci, Linda Mensch, Willie Karidis. Executive producers, Armand Assante, Clark Auster. Co-producers, Jim Troutman, Noel Olken, Liam Finn, Gaston Hinostroza, Roger Phillips. Directed, written by Sam Auster.

Crew

Camera (color, DV, Super 8, 16mm), Lance Catania; editor, Jay Bowman; production designer, Kim Rees; costume designer, Jennifer Tillery, Alycia Barohn. Reviewed at Chicago Film Festival (New Directors, competing), Oct. 13, 2011. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Sam Witwer, Armand Assante, Talia Shire, Joe Minoso, Tim Kazurinsky, Vanessa Vanderpluym.

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