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FAMILY BUSINESS (director: Sidney Lumet; screenwriter: from the novel by Vincent Patrick/Vincent Patrick; cinematographer: Andrzej Bartkowiak; editor: Andrew Mondshein; music: Cy Coleman; cast: Sean Connery (Jessie McMullen), Dustin Hoffman (Vito), Matthew Broderick (Adam), Rosana DeSoto (Elaine), Janet Carroll (Margie), Victoria Jackson (Christine), B. D. Wong (Jimmy Chiu),Bill McCutcheon (Doheny), Deborah Rush (Michele Dempsey), Marilyn Cooper (Rose), Salem Ludwig (Nat); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Lawrence Gordon; Tri-Star Pictures; 1989)
The pleasure is watching Connery shine as a roguish criminal in a story line that never gels.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Uneven filmmaker Sidney Lumet (“A Stranger Among Us”/”Running on Empty”/”The Wiz”), capable of making either a classic or a dud, comes up empty with this crazy mix of a dark comedy, crime thriller and family drama. It asks you to believe that Sean Connery’s son is Dustin Hoffman. The pleasure is watching Connery shine as a roguish criminal in a story line that never gels. It’s adapted byVincent Patrick from his own novel (obviously another screenwriter might have cleaned things up the author couldn’t because he was too close to the original source).

The sixty-something Jessie McMullen (Sean Connery) is a free-spirited, randy, down-and-out, career con artist criminal; an Irishman who is idolized by his 23-year-old brainy scientist drop-out from MIT’s graduate school grandson Adam (Matthew Broderick). Vito (Dustin Hoffman) is Jessie’s son, from his deceased Sicilian wife. The reformed Vito, married to a Jewish wife (Rosana DeSoto), is an ex-con who has gone legit and is a wealthy 14th Street wholesale meat distributor. Because of his up-tightness and nagging and no-fun attitude, Vito has alienated both his father and his son. When Jessie involves Adam in his latest scheme, a high-tech robbery of a newly developed plasma in a low-security Long Island research lab, Vito only goes into the scheme to protect Adam when he can’t convince him to change his mind. The heist is botched, and Adam is arrested. For Lumet this is a chance to discuss moral issues involving the generation gap, the role of genes in research and the morality of the law. This seems out of place and too talky, and derails the thriller. In the end there’s a weepy reconciliation among the three generations of men, who are given a chance to come together over the crime. This makes for a dull comedy that features unsympathetic characters and a messy story that’s too weak to overcome all its shortcomings, including its morally confusing viewpoint.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”