Skip to content

Family Business (1989)

CRUMBLIES…3 crumblies

Now this is more like it! A story of three glorious generations of a criminal – or about to be criminal – family with Sean Connery as the devilishly handsome and boisterously natured Grandpa, Dustin Hoffman as the twitchy and uptight (and vicious) middle-aged son, and a still-skinny Matthew Broderick as the hopeful, tangibly doomed grandson. Why it’s like old Jack, Steve and Little Steve doing over a grocery store. Only this film had its 1989 arse in gear: they go get DNA samples as a matter of Family Business.

Loved it. Not great, and the actor’s ages don’t make sense, but sod that. The thing does comedy for an hour, heist-drama for twenty minutes, then gets all emotional and wrapped up in family dramatics at the end. But…ohhhhh…Connery is good. I’ll begrudgingly admit Hoffman gives a great performance, though I can’t pretend his Vito’s viciousness and his #metoo defence didn’t give old Jack hiccups. And Broderick – toning it down a smidge from Ferris Bueller – is engagingly sweet and admiring of Connery’s Jessie (really).

Ahhh – Connery. Not a hint of the soulless bastard Bond in sight, he gives us the cheery, charming old and hairy bastard instead. He’s the happy criminal with a disappointingly gone-straight son. The giant that is Connery and the, um (he’d be five inches taller if his mum was a Scot…) shorter Hoffman make for comedy loveliness. He towers and bellows, his offspring jumps, twitches and gives off tension like a high-wire. They battle over everything from family history, to behaviour at funerals (there are a couple of lovely Danny Boys herein), to – mostly – Broderick’s Adam. This is an all-male-star vehicle so the women get lamentably short-shrift, but just this once old Jack didn’t rail against men being men. Cos they weren’t, really, they’re movie caricatures banging at each other with cheery good humour.

Well, until they don’t.

The comedy of the first half turns into lots of running up and down corridors. Adam has manipulated the older generations into joining him on the theft of DNA samples (I think…high tech shit, anyway). It’s all going quite well until Adam has to go back and makes a first-timer’s mistake. And then the women get their say: Rosanna DeSoto as Elaine gets very parenty indeed and drop-kicks the final scenes into incongruous seriousness and family melodrama. I guess it was necessary to make the story a story, but the shift in Jessie and Vito from comic fighters to frowny old men rather sucked the joy from the film for me. That and the utter predictability of the storyline.

Which is a shame, because this calmed down Connery’s performance. Old Jack hadn’t seen him in something in years, and I’d forgotten the basics of Connery-love. He’s so big he’s like your own Dad, he’s so roaringly Scottish he pulls the ancient Celt from your soul, he’s so comically callous he makes you delight in verbal brutality and open threat. The irrefutably masculine performance with a rather sweet singing voice (oh yes – there’s a moment) is muted towards the end of Family Business and we all lose something because of it.

If you need a pick-me-up, then slap this on. It shows you all the dynamics of (Scottish…Jewish…a bit Italian, really) family men in a two-hour snapshot of laughs and panic. The resented middle-aged father, struggling for the boy who abandons his privileges to impress the grandfather. The grandfather whose weird morals belittle his son, uplift his grandson, but crush the big-city-crime mentality of the grandson’s girlfriend (for honest thievery is better than asset stripping guile…hmmm). The bored, thrill-hungry grandson, set to resist his Dad and emulate the oldest bastard of them all and wreck his own life in the trying. Splendid: enough to make me want to drag young Steve’s boys into a life of crime…

Ultimately, Family Business is an entertaining burst of family tensions with a downbeat ending. Old Jack loved most of it. Young Steve glared silently at it. Make of that what you will.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: