Family Business (1989)
After going nearly 28 years between viewings, I came away from this Sidney Lumet film feeling a little better than I did the first time if my recollections are correct. Am I older and wiser? One for sure, the other possibly. What struck me this time was the performances of Sean Connery and Dustin Hoffman versus the disappointment of thinking I was seeing a laugh out loud comedy the first time around. I blame the marketing campaign for this line of thinking as the trailer had a decided bend towards the comedy angles present in the film though it’s a much more dramatic effort over all. I think this left me feeling cheated at the time of my first viewing in the days of the now extinct VHS tape. Even the trailer’s tagline gives it a comedy slant.
“There’s nothing like a good robbery to bring a family together.”
The family business presents us with the tale of three generations of a crime oriented family. Connery represents the patriarch of the family. A lifer when it comes to small time crime and bar room brawls. His estranged son is portrayed by Dustin Hoffman who hopes to leave his criminal life in the past by making sure that his son played by Matthew Broderick goes off to college and lives a life free from crime and prison stretches. To do this, he has tried his best to eradicate Connery’s influence upon the young Broderick.
Tough to accomplish when Connery is shining bright while regaling Broderick of his crime capers from the good old days.
Surprisingly it isn’t Connery who comes up with a heist but Broderick. One of those easy in and out jobs for a cool million. They need a third man and the obvious choice is Dustin. He’s against the whole endeavor from the start but realizing he isn’t going to stop the duo, goes along to ensure his son doesn’t get into any unnecessary trouble. The heist goes off without a hitch….. almost. A slip up leaves Broderick having to go back into the medical research building they’ve stolen some experiments from. He needs to grab the logbook but as can be expected makes a rookie mistake leading to his incarceration.
This plot development in the script from Vincent Patrick who adapted his own novel for the screen only serves to increase the bad feelings between Hoffman and Connery.
While there are a few laughs mixed in here, this is much more of a straight crime drama with two iconic actors and Broderick, who at the time was a go to player when casting directors were looking for a youngster who had some box office pull. As a film fan, it always strikes me that when approached to appear in a movie opposite the likes of Sean and Dusty, a young actor shouldn’t even be worried about the script but asking his agent, “Where do I sign.”
At 113 minutes, it seems to be about 20 to long. It goes on a downward spiral that never sat well with me the first time and even now I’d like to rewrite the damned thing and have a much more up tempo ending suggesting crime just might pay. Sure Sidney Lumet has directed far better films but I’ve repeatedly pointed out to readers that sometimes the importance of a film is in fact it gives us the chance to see two or more important actors in the pantheon of film history to appear opposite each other and work their skills. I truly think that Connery brings it because he’s playing opposite Hoffman and vice versa.
So on that note, this isn’t such a bad film and I don’t intend for this to sound like I’m hammering at it. It just goes back to my initial thought process that I was seeing a comedy heist film all those years ago and that also might have a lot to do with the casting of Broderick who at that time was playing roles in lighter fare.
And hey, take a look at that guy Hoffman lays a beating on. Yes it’s Luis Guzman who sure has done well for himself as a featured character player all these years.