A quick glance at the marketing materials and synopsis for Family Honor gives the impression that it must be low-budget sludge exploiting the popularity of The Godfather (1971), and to a certain degree that’s true—Family Honor is a violent story about Italian-Americans seeking justice outside the law. Yet instead of depicting a clan of criminals, Family Honor is about a young policeman urged by his mother and older brother to kill the corrupt cop suspected of murdering the policeman’s father seven years previous. This makes for a somewhat interesting comingling of narrative elements, just as the grubby authenticity of the dialogue and locations leans a bit more toward Scorsese than Coppola, even though Scorsese’s first mob movie, Mean Streets, came out the same year as Family Honor and therefore couldn’t have been an influence.
In any event, Family Honor is a relatively serious piece of work. It doesn’t realize all of its ambitions, but it’s not as disposable as one might think. Part of what makes Family Honor moderately interesting is the exact same thing that neutralizes its efficacy as a thriller—the story meanders into gloomy subplots that more closely resemble character-driven drama than suspenseful pulp. Unfortunately, the filmmakers lack the skill to weave these two types of storytelling together, so whenever Family Honor gets intimate, the story stops dead; similarly, whenever the movie gets exciting, it becomes frustratingly superficial. The action stuff, of course, is predictable—chases and shootouts, with lots of gory gun hits. The dramatic stuff is less formulaic. In between scenes of arguing with his family about the ethics of eye-for-an-eye vengeance, Joe (Anthony Page) helps a female junkie deal with her habit, engaging in long conversations with her about their respective problems. (Fair warning: The junkie storyline includes a lengthy closeup of a needle penetrating scarred flesh.)
Leading man Anthony, with his gaunt frame, hollowed-out eyes, and Fu Manchu moustache, cuts a sorta-striking figure, though he seems more suited to the background of a crime flick than the foreground. Perhaps because Anthony lacks charisma, the viewer’s attention gravitates elsewhere—for instance to the flashes of tasty dialogue. (“There’s no proof what Regatti done it, but he done it!”) In sum, your receptivity to Family Honor depends entirely on your tolerance for luxuriating in New York City seediness circa the early ’70s. If nothing else, the movie gives that in abundance.
Family Honor: FUNKY