The Return of Joe Rich
Crime Drama
Directed by:
Sam Auster
Produced by:
Sam Auster, Chris Monte, Marol Butcher
Written by:
Sam Auster
Sam Witwer, Talia Shire, Armand Assante

In THE RETURN OF JOE RICH, Sam Witwer stars as Joe Neiderman, a nice guy who lost his job, his house and wife and returns home to Chicago in search of redemption.

Driving in, the sights and sounds of the city spark a reminiscence of a long ago lunch Joe (as a little boy) shared with his ‘connected’ Uncle Dominic (ARMAND ASSANTE) and all his ‘friends’.  At this lunch, Uncle Dom forces another guy’s hand down a garbage disposal.

But as Joe recalls, Uncle Dom was right about something, crime does pay.  And as Joe sees the wreckage of The Great Recession — abandoned car dealerships, the huge tracts of foreclosed suburban homes and the shuttered shopping malls in the Chicago suburbs — he realizes the “straight world” isn’t so straight.

After moving back in with his clingy mother, Gloria Neiderman (TALIA SHIRE), Joe teams up with old friend, Bernard (JOE MINOSO), woos ex-girlfriend Teri (VANESSA VANDER PLUYM) and seeks employment with his still-charismatic Uncle Dom.

Dom later tells Joe that he doesn’t want his nephew mixed up in the family business. But Joe won’t take no for an answer. When he witnesses some day laborers being taken advantage of by their boss, he intervenes, smashing the face of the boss and forcing him to pay what he owes the laborers.

Dom thinks he might have misjudged Joe and agrees to give him a chance.  Dom orders him to “bust to zero” a college kid bookie, behind on his payments.

However, Joe botches the job, feeling sorry for the bookie and giving him some of his own money.  It’s a mistake, and Joe suffers a severe beating because of it.  Dom doesn’t allow mistakes in The Outfit, even those committed by his own family.

Humiliated, Joe plots his own brand of revenge.   He kidnaps his Uncle and demands to be appointed his successor.  But cracking the ultimate wise guy is no easy thing and, eventually, events spiral out of control.  In the end, the desperate Joe must make a fateful decision between loyalty to the friend who saved his life and the age-old iron code of revenge.


2011 Chicago International Film Festival



“Auster directs beautifully, finding a lot of humor and irony in the script. Together with his director of photography Lance Catania, Auster gives us a variety of looks, from the earth tones of the wooded county preserves to the chilly hues of a deserted warehouse. Auster’s script is also impressive, loaded with the usual obscenities (usual for a mob film that is) as well as some great insights into why these individuals act the way they do. They may perform some terrible deeds, but at the end of the day, they are driven by an unshakeable sense of honor. This was true for the “Chicago guys” forty and fifty years ago and it’s true with the new wise guys of today.”

Tom Hyland, Cinema Directives Contributing Writer

“THE RETURN of JOE RICH is light entertainment gracefully avoiding the over-the-top violence of The GODFATHER trilogy, but still maintains that sense of family, within the mindset of the underworld.  It’s excellent entertainment for most audiences, as it has very likable characters – even Uncle Don (how can you not like Armand Assante?) – has a good, linear storyline, but not too predictable, so there will be surprises throughout, and it has a strange, but understandable Hollywood Ending.”

- Mike Thomas,

“The writing, directing and acting seem to meld seamlessly to give us a compelling story not just about the mob, but about people.”

- Reel Honest Reviews