review for A Killer in the Family on AllMovie

A Killer in the Family (1983)
by Donald Guarisco review

This made-for-t.v. effort is an effective little crime tale. The script was inspired by a real incident and does a solid job of conveying how familial bonds can blur the line between right and wrong as it delivers a solid variation of the "crooks on the lam" archetype. Robert Mitchum does strong work as the manipulative and sociopathic leader, playing his sons off against each other as his criminal instincts lead them further and further into danger. James Spader, Eric Stoltz and Lance Kerwin all do effective work as the sons, with Kerwin delivering a particularly affecting performance as the youngest and most naive of the clan. However, the biggest scene-stealer is Stuart Margolin, who is alternately creepy and witty as Mitchum's eccentric partner-in-crime. It's also worth noting that Arliss Howard turns in a memorable performance in a bit role as one of the group's victims. Richard T. Heffron's direction avoids flashiness and concentrates on old-fashioned craftsmanship, resulting in a taut narrative spiced up by some effective setpieces: the jail-break is a nicely tense sequence, as is the story's grim finale. The one real defect of the film is the overwrought musical score by Gerald Fried, which sits at odds with the otherwise low-key approach of the film. However, A Killer In The Family is a compelling piece of work despite that misstep and worth a look to crime-movie buffs.