Does anybody play an old-school man's man more convincingly than Dennis Farina? A Chicago cop for almost 20 years before transitioning into showbiz, this character actor brings a lived-in masculinity to every hard-bitten detective and hardboiled mobster role; you can almost smell the musky aftershave and yesterday's steak dinner wafting off the screen. Seeing Farina in a lead role is, regrettably, the only reason to check out this tale of a lowlife past his prime. Once upon a time, Joe May considered himself a high-plains grifter among Chicago's small-fry hoods; age, illness and a fashion sense stuck around 1973 have turned him into a joke. (He and Eddie Coyle should start a support group for underworld sad sacks.) Thankfully, his old apartment's new tenants---a single-mother nurse (Allman) and her daughter (Droeger)---let Joe crash in the spare room. Then Mom's cop boyfriend starts doling out shiners. Let's see, we've got a surrogate family in trouble, a domestic-abuser villain and a guy looking for one last shot at redemption. You can guess the rest.
A peripheral indie-cinema presence, writer-director Joe Maggio (Virgil Bliss) gives Farina ample room to display Windy City world-weariness and a Camille-worthy cough. It's a textbook lion-in-winter performance, struggling against a movie cursed with a tin ear for tough-guy dialogue and every pulp-loser clich imaginable. The more the veteran actor strives to give Joe a final dose of funereal dignity, the more the film around him seems intent on deep-sixing its MVP.
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