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Film / Family Business

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You can totally see the family resemblance.

Family Business is a 1989 caper film directed by Sidney Lumet, with a screenplay by Vincent Patrick based on his novel. It stars Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick.

Jessie McMullen (Connery) is the Scottish-American patriarch of a family of career criminals, including his half-Sicilian son Vito (Hoffman) and grandson Adam (Broderick). Vito has left a life of crime behind, but the college-educated Adam remains loyal to his grandfather. Reluctantly, Vito joins his father and son on a big-time heist involving millions of dollars' worth of test-tube specimens.


  • Air-Vent Passageway: Subverted in Jesse's "Pee-Wee Grogan Story." On one of Vito and Jesse's warehouse robberies from years ago, a "tough little thief" named Pee-Wee Grogan squeezed through an air-conditioning duct to get them into the warehouse, but did not come out unscathed:
    Jesse: "....when [Pee-Wee] opened the door for us, he was dripping blood. Hundreds of little gashes where he'd ripped himself to shreds on the heads of the nails going through. Vito, that dwarf had heart."
  • Berserk Button: You do not threaten Vito's family. Torres, the meat worker who's stealing from Vito's business, learns this lesson the hard way, as Vito smashes his face in and deals him a few kicks to the abdomen.
  • Book Ends: The film opens with a tracking shot of NYC, which comes to rest on a small pile of white powder sitting on a rooftop parapet. It closes on the powder (which we now know to be Jesse's ashes) blowing away in the wind, and the camera returns to the tracking shot.
  • Dirty Coward: Adam shows signs of this when he realizes just how dangerous a life of crime actually is. Jessie may also have some of this whether he admits it or not, the way he runs out on people.
  • The Mafia: It's the "family business".
  • Manipulative Bastard: Jessie
  • Never My Fault: Jessie refuses to acknowledge that he was a bad father or that he deserves Vito's dislike and mistrust based on his past.
  • Only Sane Man: Vito
  • Stupid Evil: Adam, for not doing so much as an iota of research and preparation for his burglary - and not even having the good sense to bring gloves.
  • Three Successful Generations: There's Jessie, who is proud of his criminal past and lifestyle, his son Vito, who now runs a thriving wholesale Twelfth Avenue meat packing warehouse and has left his criminal past behind him, and his grandson Adam, who is in college with a scientific scholarship and seemingly has a bright future ahead of him.
  • Tranquil Fury: Vito is eerily calm when he beats up the meat worker who threatens his family, never even saying a word after.
  • Villain Protagonist: Jessie, and to a lesser extent Adam.