Cinema Review: A Family Man | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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A Family Man

Studio: Vertical Entertainment
Directed by Mark Williams

Jul 28, 2017 Web Exclusive
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Back at the Toronto Film Festival last year, there was at least some buzz surrounding what was then called The Headhunter’s Calling. Now masquerading as A Family Man, any early optimism seems to have long dissipated, swamped by an excess of poorly applied clichés and the perverse decision to waste good actors in pointless roles. Yet for all that, there’s enough of a strong through line to hold this disparate ship together.

Gerard Butler is the headhunter of the initial title, and the family man of the new one. He’s Dane Jensen, corporate shark, happy to pull all manner of dirty tricks to earn his bonus. That could mean derailing a recruitment process by calling an employer to suggest a new hire is a sex offender, or it might simply involve using less appealing clients as outriders to secure high commissions on better prospects. Either way, he’s up to no good.

Frankly, that’s too much time spent on Dane’s job already. Bill Dubuque’s screenplay, directed by first-timer Mark Williams, wants us to believe it’s a Wall Street type set-up, but Dane just works in a shiny call-center. There’s some nonsense over his playboy boss (Willem Dafoe) picking his successor (the rival is a completely underused Alison Brie), but all of this is there purely for Dane to eventually achieve moral redemption by rejecting the cutthroat world. The reason he might want to become a better man, a family man even because the two are equated here, is his son Ryan (Max Jenkins) who is diagnosed with Leukemia. Thus, Dane and his wife Elise (Gretchen Mol) are thrust into that nightmare. It’s also an opportunity to stuff in clichés. Bonding moments galore unfold as Dane takes his son on a Chicago architecture tour—look at him learning so much from his child, particularly in a cringe-inducing scene in a Frank Lloyd Wright house—while back in the hospital there’s even the wise orderly (Dwain Murphy) and the taciturn yet slightly mystical doctor (Anupam Kher.)

Back in the professional world, Dane also has Alfred Molina’s aging, unemployed engineer as another tool to get him back on the straight and narrow. Molina offers a nice little diversion but it’s painfully written, the sub-plot set-up to resemble a ‘Dave Jensen isn’t a bad guy’ display home. While Dane is off finding his own redemption, A Family Man scrapes just enough from the relationship between Dane and Elise to offer decent drama. They argue and disappoint each other, but there’s also a remarkable level of communication. They actually talk, and listen. Mol still isn’t allowed much to do with every moment of real drama given to Butler (who incidentally acquits himself well), but they make for a genuinely engaging couple. It’s this engagement that holds together all the other elements cribbed from a back-catalogue of every evil capitalist and sick kid drama ever made. A Family Man isn’t good, but it’s far better than its lazy foundations and cheap motivations deserve.

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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Ken Wood
June 3rd 2019

We must’ve seen different movies. I read your ‘inadequate’ review to find the name of the architect whose work in Chicago father and son were visiting (not the Frank Lloyd Wright home) and just thought I’d read you review, which wasn’t much.
I’ll bet you’re a nag.