ripoff descendant of Rain Man, Yonkers Joe once again unhappily marries the world of gambling to the exploitation of the developmentally disabled. The film takes place in the dingy, tacky world of Yonkers Joe (a well cast Chazz Palminteri, whose singular features manage to at once invoke both an infant and a vampire bat), a low-level grifter who earns a modest living through sleight of hand and loaded dice. Cheating at the craps tables and clambakes of Atlantic City, sometimes with the aid of his girlfriend Janice (Christine Lahti, in a performance that's the highlight of the entire film), Joe's more or less content to shuffle through life with moderately high levels of self-loathing.
A wrench is thrown into Joe's routine when his 20-year-old son, Joe Jr. (Tom Guiry), is suddenly thrust into his life. Although very high functioning, Junior has Down syndrome, and is being ejected from his school after physically assaulting one of the staff members. His father is faced with the prospect of being stuck with him for six months until he's eligible to join a group home, and is desperate to slime his way out of the responsibility. So Joe schemes a major score in Las Vegas (the film awesomely refuses to even acknowledge the existence of the modern strip, sticking unequivocally to Fremont Street) to try to earn enough to put his son in an expensive facility for the interim.
According to interviews, writer and director Robert Celestino's own father actually was a gambling "mechanic," as the term goes, and the film's apparently authentic peek into the methods used by both the hustlers and casinos to outsmart each other are the most fascinating aspect here. The sideways development of the relationship of Junior and Senior, on the other hand, falls resoundingly flat.