Just the Ticket

USA 1998

Reviewed by Geoffrey Macnab


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

New York ticket tout Gary Starke learns that the Pope is coming to give a mass at Yankee Stadium. Seeing this as an opportunity to secure his future and convince girlfriend Linda he is more than just a hustler, Gary tries to get hold of as many tickets as he can. But he has a rival, Casino, a tout with mob connections. Exasperated by Gary, Linda has started dating another man and now plans to study cookery in Paris.

Gary's old partner Benny lends him the money to buy more tickets and dies soon after. Gary gives the oration at his funeral, to which ex-heavyweight champ Joe Frazier turns up, giving substance to Benny's stories about his past exploits as a boxing coach. Disguised as a nun, Gary does brisk business selling tickets at Yankee Stadium. His cover is blown and he is arrested, but he sees the Pope from his cell. Once released, Gary brawls with Casino and is beaten up. Skulking in his one-room apartment, Gary is visited by a man who tells him he is the sole benefactor of Benny's life insurance and presents him with a cheque. With the cash, he is able to buy Linda the premises for a new restaurant. She abandons her trip to Paris.


Gary Starke, the ticket-tout hero of writer-director Richard Wenk's Just the Ticket, could be a character from a Damon Runyon short story. A street hustler, a scalper with an eye for the main chance, he wears the clothes (gaudy Hawaiian shirts and baggy trousers) and speaks the patter. His associates are low-lifes like him, but all with their own code of honour.

So far, so familiar: in its early scenes, Just the Ticket seems to be developing into a likable comedy-romance set against the backcloth of the touts' murky world. Wenk (director of Vamp) shot most of the film on location in New York. He captures the frenetic quality of big-city street life, complete with touts who seem to see themselves as urban cowboys. ("There are no rules... it's the wild west here," one character observes.) In theory, combining the rough-edged, street-level drama with a love story should not have presented a problem. Chaplin did it in City Lights (1931) and countless other film-makers have followed suit. Nevertheless, in Just the Ticket there is a dispiriting sense that two different, largely incompatible films have been yanked together.

Whenever Andy Garcia (who also produced this particular film) and Andie MacDowell are on screen together, the tone changes. The edgy, improvisatory quality is lost and the storytelling becomes blander and less credible. In his scenes with MacDowell, Garcia seems so witty and resourceful that it's hard to credit that this is the same character who lives in a shabby apartment and doesn't even have the wherewithal to get himself a social-security number. MacDowell's is a thankless role. While she is holed up in the kitchen (she dreams of becoming a chef), Garcia gets the chance to clown around. She is the straight man to his comedian. At times, for example when he offers to sell a television on her behalf in return for a date, her sole function seems to be to set up his one-liners.

The whimsy grates. Garcia's routines with his pet dog and his habit of bouncing a ball wherever he goes are more irritating than endearing. Easily the strongest scenes are those when he is out and about, hustling, passing on tickets or tips, or trying to steal a march on rival tout Casino. The street sharks, who all have names like Barry the Book or Harry the Head, are sharply and affectionately observed. Gary's relationship with old-timer Benny (beautifully played by Richard Bradford) provides the few moments of grace and pathos. The rest of the crew dismiss Benny as a broken-down has-been - wrongly, it transpires, when ex-heavyweight champ 'Smoking' Joe Frazier (playing himself) turns up at his funeral.

After Frazier's cameo, Gary's bizarre encounter with the Pope seems anti-climactic, as indeed does the rest of the film. Just the Ticket peters out in as contrived and mawkish a way as any tearjerker. By glossing over the harshness, seediness and violence of Gary's ticket-tout life on the streets, Wenk ends up hiding precisely what made the premise for the film so vivid and arresting in the first place.


Gary Lucchesi
Andy Garcia
Richard Wenk
Director of Photography
Ellen Kuras
Christopher Cibelli
Production Designer
Franckie Diago
Rick Marotta
©CineSon Productions, Inc
Production Company
From United Artists
Executive Producers
Andie MacD0well
Yoram Pelman
Marivi Lorido Garcia
John H. Starke
Associate Producers
Joe Drago
George Hernandez
Production Co-ordinators
Shelley Houis
Rose Ferraro Fahey
Unit Production Manager
J.H. Starke
Location Manager
Deb Parker
Post-production Supervisor
George Hernandez
Assistant Directors
Robert E. Warren
Jeff Bernstein
Joan Bostwick
Script Supervisor
Deirdre Horgan
Amanda Mackey Johnson
Cathy Sandrich
NY Associate:
Mercedes Danforth
LA Associate:
Elizabeth Lang Fedrick
ADR Voice:
Barbara Harris
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Richard Eliano
Camera Operator
Rich Eliano
Digital Effects
Blue Sky/VIFX
Digital Effects Supervisor:
Hilmar Koch
Digital Effects Producer:
Amy Jupiter
Senior Digital Artist:
John Siczewicz
Digital Effects Consultant:
Christopher Scollard
Digital Effects Co-ordinator:
Michael D. Feder
Digital Effects Artists:
Sing Choong Foo
Jaime Castañeda
Digital Effects Editor:
Tim Nordquist
Art Director
Henry Dunn
Set Decorator
Karin Wiesel
Scenic Artists
Susan Glod
Ian Zdatny
Costume Designer
Susan Lyall
Wardrobe Supervisors
Jill E. Anderson
Fionnuala Lynch
Jane E. Williams
Sharon Ilson
Kymbra M. Callaghan
Key Hairstylist
Aaron F. Quarles
Title Design
Charles McDonald
Howard Anderson Co
Additional Music
Israel López 'Cachao'
Joe Turano
Andy Garcia
The Band
Good Call Johnny and The Scalptones
Music Conductor/Orchestrations
David Spinozza
Music Editor
Darrell E. Hall
Music Recording Engineer
Andy Mitchell
Music Consultant
Dino Nicolosi
"The Scalper" by Israel López 'Cachao', performed by Israel López 'Cachao' and his Orchestra; "Linda's Theme" by Andy Garcia; "Linda's Mambo" by Andy Garcia, performed by Israel López 'Cachao' and his Orchestra; "When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles with You)" by Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin, Larry Shay, performed by Louis Prima; "Money (That's What I Want)" by Berry Gordy, Janie Bradford, performed by Nil Lara; "Over My Head" (trad), arranged/performed by Cyrus Chestnut; "Call Me Irresponsible" by Sammy Cahn, James Van Heusen, performed by Bobby Darin; "Feelin' Alright" by Dave Mason, performed by Dr. John; "Come Rain or Come Shine" by Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, performed by Dr. John, Dianne Reeves; "Chihuahua" by Ray Gilbert, Louis Oliveira, performed by Luis Oliveira and his Bandodalua Boys; "Big Date" by Richard Wenk, Andy Garcia, Andie MacDowell, performed by Dr. John; "Heaven Is Almost Here" by Andy Garcia, Richard Wenk; "Amazing Grace" (trad), lead vocal by Daniella Garcia-Lorido; "Jesus Is on the Main Line" (traditional spiritual), arranged/conducted by Edward M. Tate, performed by Voices of Gospel First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Los Angeles; "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder, Syreeta Wright, Lee Garrett, Lula Mae Hardaway, performed by Stevie Wonder
Sound Designer/Supervisor
Leonard Marcel
Sound Mixer
Les Lazarowitz
Eric Bretter
Greg Fry
Re-recording Mixer
Ken S. Polk
Dialogue Supervisor
Craig Clark
Dialogue Editor
Alan Schultz
Sound Effects Editors
Reuben Simon
Bruce Endres
Mark Relyea
Doc Kane
Sue Pusateri
Leonard Marcel
Reuben Simon
Technical Adviser
Gary Swailes
Stunt Co-ordinator
Jeff Ward
Andy Garcia
Gary Starke
Andie MacDowell
Linda Paliski
Richard Bradford
Benny Moran
Elizabeth Ashley
Mrs Paliski
Fred Asparagus
André Blake
Patrick Breen
San Diego Vinnie
Ronald Guttman
Gerrard, culinary director
Donna Hanover
Laura Harris
Bill Irwin
Ray Charles
Chris Lemmon
Ron Leibman
Barry the Book
Louis Mustillo
Harry the Head
Paunita Nichols
Don Novello
Abe Vigoda
Irene Worth
Mrs Haywood
Joe Frazier
Sullivan Cooke
Alice Drummond
lady with cash
Anita Elliott
refund lady at the Met
Michael Willis
TV customer
Jack Cafferty
Molly Wenk
Fanny, Catholic schoolgirl
Daniella Garcia-Lorido
Lucy, Catholic schoolgirl
Michael P. Moran
Fat Max
Helen Carey
food critic
Bobo Lewis
Mrs Dolmatch
Brian Schwary
college kid in jail
Davenia McFadden
social security checker
Lenny Venito
Richard Wenk
'Good Call Johnny' DJ
George Palermo
undercover cop
Anthony DeSando
Kenny Paliski
Robert Castle
Uncle Donald
Sully Boyar
Uncle Tony
Luis Aponte
Maury, funeral director
Joe Drago
Father V. Crespo
Alfredo Alvarez Calderon
Yankee Stadium security chief
Gene Greytak
The Pope
Joanna P. Adler
John Tormey
taxi cab driver
Michael Higgins
confessional priest
Austin Lyall Sansone
baby in womb
First Independent Films Ltd
10,368 feet
115 minutes 12 seconds
Digital DTS sound/Dolby
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011