THE CLAN, biopic/crime drama, rated R, in Spanish with subtitles, The Screen, 3. 5c hiles
Arquímedes Puccio (Guillermo Francella) and his wife and children look like a typical family. One son, Alejandro (Peter Lanzani), is a rising rugby star. His youngest son, Guillermo (Franco Masini), wants to follow in the footsteps of his brother Maguila (Gastón Cocchiarale) and see the world. The youngest daughter, Adriana (Antonia Bengoechea), does homework in bed with her headphones turned up. But beneath the veneer of normalcy, the Puccio family is living a gruesome reality. Arquímedes is engaged in a criminal enterprise that involves kidnapping, extortion, and murder. Typical family dynamics play out while the muffled screams of abducted victims can be heard coming from hidden rooms. The family reels between denial, indifference, and fear.
Francella is chilling as the sociopathic family patriarch. The Clan, based on a true story, is set in Buenos Aires. Under the regime of Leopoldo Galtieri during Argentina’s so-called “dirty war,” the elder Puccio was a military intelligence officer involved in the disappearances of political dissidents during a reign of state-sponsored terror. Finding himself out of work after Galtieri was deposed, he turned to kidnapping members of wealthy families for money. The story focuses on Arquímedes and his relationship with Alejandro. By day, they run a surf shop, and the long-haired Alejandro seems an earnest, likable, and idealistic young man, helpful with the customers and popular with his teammates. It’s a measure of his father’s insidiousness that he involves his own son in the kidnapping and eventual murder of a fellow rugby player. Despite his better judgment, Alejandro is seduced by the money when his father cuts him in for a share. Only Adriana reacts in horror when she hears the incessant moaning of a sixty-five-year-old businesswoman who’s trapped in the house and being held for ransom. It was this kidnapping that led to the unraveling of the Puccio Clan’s crime ring when negotiations with the victim’s family failed.
The Clan is a violent film, but not gratuitously so. A high point is an engaging soundtrack that features The Kinks, David Lee Roth, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The music carries the film through to a tense and satisfying conclusion and recalls Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese in the way it is used to underscore the unpleasantness — as when the camera follows an abduction in progress while Ray Davies croons “Sunny Afternoon.”
Arquímedes’ motivations are selfish and sinister. He takes a perverse pleasure in toying with the victims’ families, giving them false hopes. One victim, a successful shoe-store owner, had recently offered Arquímedes’ son a pair on the house. All of the crimes seem to happen close to home and involve neighbors and friends. The denial extends beyond the family proper and into the community: a legacy of silence from Argentina’s years under military dictatorships.
It’s a family affair: Peter Lanzani and Guillermo Francella