Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: The Clan

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Son Alejandro (Peter Lanzani) is drawn into the family business of kidnapping and killing.
Son Alejandro (Peter Lanzani) is drawn into the family business of kidnapping and killing.

As the 2014 Oscar-nominated anthology Wild Tales showed, Argentinean cinema does like its black comedies.

The Clan, which last year matched Wild Tales as all-time champ of the country's annual box office, is certainly deeply, darkly funny in its tale of how the nice middle class Puccios make a family business out of kidnapping and murder.

But the grim laughs generated by this clearly Scorsese-influenced film come blacker than most. That's because it's a true story of how father Arquimedes Puccio kept his family in the manner to which they had become accustomed by kidnapping wealthy victims and killing them after the ransom is paid.

As the movie shows, he has his reasons. With early 1980s Argentina heading to post-dictatorship democracy, it seems the regime will soon no longer require his services at making suspected leftists disappear.

So it's time to strike out into the private sector. After all, he has a family to provide for.

Soon el casa Puccio, in a nice part of Buenos Aires, is entertaining house guests, either tied to the pipes in the upstairs bathroom or to a bed in the basement.

And not only is Dad bringing his work home with him, he enlists his two eldest sons, Alejandro and Daniel, along with the complicit silence of his wife and other three children.

It's in the relationship between Arquimedes (a terrifically chilling Guillermo Francella) and his rugby-star eldest boy Alejandro (Peter Lanzani) that The Clan stages its conflict between family loyalty and collusion in evil.

The two do have some relationship hurdles. Like the fact that daddy dearest has kidnapped and killed one of the teenager's teammates.

But with the ransoms helping Alejandro into his own surf shop, acquiring a new girlfriend, his rugby career taking off and brother Daniel back from a working holiday in New Zealand now helping Dad out, he puts aside his troubled conscience.

Life goes on as normal. With occasional screams from random rooms in the family home.

Director Pablo Trapero exercises a cool restraint in his portrayal of this diabolical domesticity.

Though he's certainly having some ironic fun in the soundtrack, having jaunty tunes like The Kinks' Sunny Afternoon and David Lee Roth's Just a Gigolo score the execution of Arquimedes' brutally efficient crimes and essentially treating them as a bit of a romp.

That's curiously disturbing. But not as troubling as Francella's quietly malevolent portrayal of father knows best.

Cast: Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzani, Lili Popovich, Gaston Cocchiarale
Director: Pablo Trapero
Rating: R13 (Violence, offensive language and sex scenes)
Running time: 109 mins
Verdict: Another wild Argentinean tale, told well

- TimeOut

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