- Movie Rating -

Family Business (1989)

| December 15, 1989

I begin my assessment of Sydney Lumet’s Family Business, as I suppose anyone would, with the casting.  Sean Connery is the father of Dustin Hoffman and, we’re asked to believe, Hoffman is the father of Matthew Broderick.  I’m all for suspension of disbelief but to accept that these three actors are related by blood is a leap that I think you just have to go with.

My second leap is to figure out exactly what this movie is about.  It’s a drama about a broken family, which seems to have come at the screenplay level, but it is also a caper in which the three participants are all involved in professional heists – an element that feels like a studio mandate.

Once I got over my question marks about the family lineage, I could accept the odd pairings because these three actors are all very good, particularly Connery who has always overcome a limited range with his trademark charm.  Connery is Jessie McMullen, a Scot who is a real macho man’s man.  He’s been in and out of trouble since he was in short pants and now, even in his old age, he’s still unable to keep himself out of trouble.  The movie opens as he’s getting out of jail after assaulting an off-duty cop in a bar.

Hoffman is Vito, Connery’s son whom we are told is half-Scottish and half-Sicilian (I love the hurdles this movie has to jump to get the family’s origins in line).  And Broderick is half-Jewish.  All of this hereditary hoo-ha serves a purpose in the caper that the three get mixed up in because it involves stealing some DNA research materials.

The caper isn’t very interesting, but never-the-less, Broderick is the one who comes up with the plan, despite the fact that he has never had so much as a parking ticket.  Hoffman doesn’t want his son involved partially because of an upbringing that involved growing up with a father who was involved in the criminal lifestyle.  Connery, meanwhile, is overjoyed.  It’s a family outing!

Honestly, it is hard to care about this caper.  I was invested in these actors and their connection to one another despite the massive question marks about their family connections.  They’re all very good together, and I probably might have preferred a movie in which the three are brought together over, say, Thanksgiving or a family funeral instead of the caper which just, for me, gets in the way. 

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1989) View IMDB Filed in: Drama