Celebrating Chicago Culture: The Last Rites of Joe May

| June 6th, 2023

Continuing our series celebrating Chicago culture…

Here is how Roger Ebert opened his review of Joe Maggio’s terrific, and sadly forgotten, The Last Rites of Joe May:

You meet guys like Joe May. They can get you a price on some merchandise that fell off the back of some truck. in the performance of his career, Dennis Farina depicts the type flawlessly in “The Last Rites of Joe May.” He looks into the type and sees the man inside: proud, weary, fearful.

This movie takes place on the West Side of Chicago, without a single “beauty shot.” Not a skyscraper in sight. Only gray, cold streets, shabby bars and forlorn bus stops. Joe May has just been released from Cook County Hospital after a siege of pneumonia that nearly killed him. Before he goes home, he goes to a bar. “Jeez, I thought you was dead,” the bartender says. Nothing about how he’s glad to see Joe is alive.

This is not a pleasant watch, but it’s an important one as a city film. And in so many ways it caps off Farina’s brilliant film career, a career that saw him emerges like a storm in Midnight Run and subsequently steal films away from superstars in Get Shorty and Snatch. The trailer is below, but the film is streaming free on Peacock and rentable in all the normal places.

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