Family Business

Family Business. Gordon Company 1989.

Before watching the movie:

I remember this came up very recently, but I don’t recall what it was in connection to. I think it was a related movie on IMDB, but I’m not even sure of that. Maybe it had sufficient keywords in common with The Sting, but I can’t recall for sure and it wasn’t there when I checked. What I am sure of is that the idea of Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, and Matthew Broderick playing a criminal family running a caper was something I needed immediately.

After watching the movie:

Jessie has been in and out of jail all his life as a professional criminal. His son Vito grew up in crime along with him, but at an early age served some time, went straight, and spent 20 years running an honest meat packing plant he hated to provide an honest living for his family. His son Adam has no record, but just dropped out of college because the bright future he was heading for felt claustrophobic. Adam bails Jessie out of his latest incarceration and proposes a burglary to him. His old biology teacher invented some DNA tech and got cheated out of his share of the profits, but if some skilled criminals could break into the lab and acquire some samples and notes, they could have a cut of the profits from the biologist’s new startup. When Vito finds out what they’re planning to do, he’s incensed that his son would turn to crime rather than be grateful for the middle-class life Vito built for him, but Vito agrees to be the third man so he can look out for Adam, who’s thrown in with the man Vito resents most.

Okay, yes. Sean Connery is an odd choice to play Dustin Hoffman’s father and Matthew Broderick’s grandfather. But the writing and performance sell the relationships, and I suspect the intent of alluding to a long-gone Italian mother for Vito was mainly to try to explain the dodgy genetics. That said, I buy Connery and Broderick as grandfather and grandson well enough.

This seems to be marketed as a comedy, and there is some humor here and there, but it’s very low-key running under all the family drama. The caper that the synopses make a big deal out of is a relatively small portion of the plot. The entire third act is concerned with the aftermath of the caper, so it isn’t even an Ocean’s Eleven well-oiled machine like the posters seem to imply. It’s a story about fathers and sons who resent each other, but are forced to admit they still love each other. And that is a very different story, playing to a different set of the actors’ strengths, than I was sold. They are all very accomplished dramatically, but they’re also very good comedic actors.

This is a very good, very enjoyable movie on a completely different tone than was built up for me. It’s great to see these actors play family tensions off each other. I’m still more interested in the movie I thought it was going to be, but if I had known what this really was, I may not have watched it. Certainly not with any urgency. And I’m glad I did.

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