Ira Robbins
January 17, 1997 AT 05:00 AM EST

A Family Thing

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
109 minutes
performer
Robert Duvall, James Earl Jones, Irma P. Hall
director
Richard Pearce
author
Tom Epperson, Billy Bob Thornton
genre
Drama

We gave it an B+

Sling Blade’s Billy Bob Thornton and cowriter Tom Epperson display impressive stylistic breadth in the scripts for these starkly different pictures. The made-for-cable Don’t Look Back delivers tense thrills as a vicious drug dealer (Thornton, who did similar duty in the 1992 cult hit One False Move) pursues a grubby junkie (Stoltz) who stole a briefcase full of money. Though burdened with extraneous Gulf War psychological motivation, the story develops smartly toward a violent showdown. Without the violence, A Family Thing, which revisits the Southern racial secrecy underlying One False Move, is even more satisfying. When a crusty white Arkansan (Duvall) learns the shocking truth of his parentage, he travels to Chicago to meet the brother (Jones) he didn’t know he had. The characters’ abrupt development is implausible, but the film hits emotional highs with credible dialogue and brilliant performances by Duvall and Irma P. Hall as the brothers’ wise old aunt. Don’t Look Back: B-; A Family Thing: B+

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