Lotto Land (1995)


(director/writer/producer: John Rubino; cinematographer: Rufus Standefer; editor: Jack Haigis; music: Sherman Holmes / Wendell Holmes; cast: Larry Gilliard (Hank), Wendell Holmes (Milt), Barbara Gonzalez (Joy), Suzanne Costallis (Flo), Jaime Tirelli (Papi);; Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael J. Rubino; Cinepix Film Properties; 1995)
“Too crudely made to be effective.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In John Rubino’s lackluster message comedy/romance film, residents in the ghetto of Red Hook, Brooklyn, react wildly to the news that someone in their neighborhood is holding a winning lottery ticket for $27 million. In this low-budget indie film about dreams, it’s stated by the neighborhood alcoholic “If you can buy a dream for a dollar, that’s all it’s worth.” He’s obviously the neighborhood sage. It also explores life in the ‘hood among the younger and older generations. Shot in a mere 19 days in the low-middle-class neighborhood at the fringe of Park Slope, it never comes together as anything but a nice try at making an upbeat film but one too crudely made to be effective. It was patched together in a jarring manner, the plot was too thin to sustain interest, and the characters were never developed past the surface. But the blues numbers spliced into the story throughout by the Holmes Brothers, a NYC trio, were fine, even though the tunes seemed out of place.

Hank Stokes (Gilliard) is a black high school senior who yearns to be in the NBA, doesn’t do drugs, and has a good head on his shoulders. He works part-time in the liquor store owned by his next door neighbor Flo (Suzanne Costallos). The Italian Flo’s adopted daughter is the cute Latino Joy (Gonzalez) and she has caught Hank’s eye and the two begin a romance, but his future remains uncertain after graduation. Joy is preparing to go away to college and their relationship could be coming to a sudden end just as quickly as it began.

Hank gets carried away and buys $100 worth of the lottery tickets that could be worth $27 million from Flo’s liquor store, hoping to escape the ghetto. Meanwhile Hank’s dad Milt (Wendell Holmes, blues legend) and Joy’s step-mother have fallen for each other as well. Then Flo learns that she sold the winning lottery ticket at her liquor store to someone who doesn’t step forward to claim the prize. But Flo thinks it might be Joy’s biological father, Papi (Jaime Tirelli), a raving drunk who wouldn’t be able to claim it because he’s been arrested for selling crack. Everybody in the neighborhood when not screwing around and climbing through apartment windows to escape a lover are speculating soap-opera style who could have hit the jackpot. Ho…hum, the message eventually learned by everyone is that you might not need the big cash prize to find happiness.