Review: A Family Man

A Family Man
3 10

PLOT: A ruthless corporate headhunter (Gerard Butler) competing for a big promotion finds his existence upended when his son is diagnosed with cancer.

REVIEW: A FAMILY MAN, which screened at TIFF last year under the more appropriate title, THE HEADHUNTER’S CALLING, is another attempt by star Gerard Butler to break out of his pigeonholed action hero image. In the same vein as his own PLAYING FOR KEEPS, he’s cast a rakish dad who learns the meaning of fatherhood when faced with the prospect of losing his child. It’s mawkish and it’s been done before, hence A FAMILY MAN’s low-key release (despite the A-pedigree cast) in advance of its inevitable run on streaming.

One imagines A FAMILY MAN was darker in script form, as Bill Dubuque’s (the show runner of Netflix’s “Ozarks”) premise flirts with darker territory, only for it to be consistently pulled back into saccharine melodrama, giving this an oddball schizophrenic nature. One wonders whether this happened before or after filming, as for much of the movie Butler plays his character, a corporate recruiter (aka headhunter) as a virtual sociopath, with his evolution tough to swallow. Over and over, we see him do despicable things, from joking about his son’s terminal illness in the hospital, demanding that his wife allow him to ejaculate in her face during oral sex (which is treated as “cute) and, worst of all, lying about one of his clients being a pedophile so that he takes a lower paying position which gives his firm a bigger percentage. That alone makes you wish the movie ended with Butler in handcuffs, but it actually expects us to agree with him when, after his wife tells him that she loves him, he replies “what’s not to love?”

One can see why this one had a poor reception at TIFF, despite high production values and an exceptional cast, although none save Gretchen Mol as Butler’s wife get much to do – even though she’s mostly his doorman throughout. Willem Dafoe is his one-dimensional sociopath boss, who we’re also supposed to think is a nice guy at heart (even though he’s despicable) while Alison Brie, as Butler’s competitor at the firm, seems way too level headed to ever work with or for these maniacs. Only Alfred Molina as an aging engineer looking for a job really evokes sympathy, while Anupam Kher has some nice, quiet moments as a doctor treating Butler’s son. Still, when you’re rooting for the hero’s ruin throughout, you know you’ve got a problem. Maybe George Clooney or Robert Downey Jr. could have pulled this off, but Butler is out of his element.

I’m sure everyone involved went into this with good intentions, and maybe Dubuque’s script was solid, but something happened on the way to the silver screen that leaves A FAMILY MAN an irredeemable mess, despite a slick look that suggests it had a healthy budget – at least more so than most VOD releases. Luckily, it’ll only be a footnote on the CV’s of everyone involved, and would be best left to sink into obscurity without much fuss.

Source: JoBlo.com



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