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Posted by on Mar 2, 2021 in Blog, Movie Reviews | 1 comment

Best Gambling Movies #22 (29th Street)



My writing series, “Best Gambling Movies of All Time” continues with #22 — “29th Street,” described as a crossover between “Goodfellas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Title and Year:  29th Street (1991)   

Director:  George Gallo 

Actors:  Anthony LaPaglia, Danny Aiello, Lainie Kazan, Robert Forster

Synopsis:  A stereotypical Italian-American family is turned upside down on the eve of the first-ever New York State Lottery drawing when the aloof son believes he holds the winning ticket.


When released in 1991, 29th Street was overshadowed by two similar-themed movies that came out at around the same time.  That cruel misfortune undercut the film’s potential success and shattered hopes it might join many better-known popular cinema tales with Italian-American-New Yorker characters and storylines.  Indeed, Goodfellas and A Bronx Tale set the bar so high, that this funnier, family-oriented movie was ignored and soon forgotten.  That’s a shame because 29th Street is an enjoyable good movie, well worth seeing.

All the stereotypes of typical Italian families are checked here with an ink blotter.  But even with the predictable backdrop, the story twists and turns down paths we don’t expect and ultimately delivers on knockout punch on an intriguing premise.

Based very loosely on the kinda’ true story of Frank Pesce Jr.’s experiences being one of the ten finalists for the first-ever New York State Lottery drawing with a jackpot of $6.2 million (1n 1976 dollars), most of the film takes place between the moment he finds out there’s a 1/10 chance of becoming rich and the night of the big drawing.

The lottery ticket holder is played perfectly by Anthony LaPaglia perhaps best known for his role in the television series Without a Trace.  But the screen belongs to the late Danny Aiello in one of his best film roles.  No actor was better typecast as the lovable working-class guido over the course of his career.

Aiello plays the father, who is the unluckiest man alive.  His son buys one lottery ticket, an accident, and bingo!  Instantly, he’s got a shot at becoming a millionaire.  Tension mounts.  Sparks fly.  The fun begins.


29th Street includes several scenes in backroom dice games, conversations about sports betting, and other forms of gambling.  But the lottery ticket is the focus here, including some interesting discussion as to the actual value of the ticket (pre-drawing).

The film has been described as a crossover between Goodfellas and It’s a Wonderful Life — a fitting depiction that tells you a lot about this overlooked gem.

Worst Gambling Movies

#23 – The Cooler (2003)

#24 – The Big Town (1987)

#25 – My Daughter’s Secret Life (2001)

Best Gambling Movies

#23 – Molly’s Game (2017)

#24 – Owning Mamowny (2003)

#25 – House of Games (1987)

TAG: best movies about gambling
TAG:  Nolan Dalla writings

1 Comment


  1. Worst Gambling Movies #22 (Lay the Favorite) | Nolan Dalla - […] #22 – 29th Street (1991) […]
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