Polish Bar, a recent movie starring Judd Hirsch, Meat Loaf, and Richard Belzer (the Law and Order guy) is packed with the drama of what the filmmakers call Chicago’s “ludicrous underbelly”: money, drugs, sex, religion, bar fights, thievery, family schisms. It’s emotionally disturbing—and hard to look away.
Reuben, played by Vincent Piazza, is a troubled yet well-intentioned guy who works in his uncle’s jewelry store and just wants to be a DJ. But success has always eluded him. He was “never in a gifted class,” his mother chillingly reminds him, and he used to sell “dirty magazines to Yeshiva students.” It’s not long till he’s struggling with his friends and family, his creative aspirations, and his secret side-job dealing drugs.
Polish Bar makes us feel for poor Reuben and that ludicrous underbelly, but most engaging about the film were the theological debates between Reuben and his Hasidic cousin. Is being a thief in the eyes of the law different than being one in the eyes of God? As the credits ran, we found ourselves mulling over that question, too.