Kidnapping As A Family Business In The True Life Thriller 'The Clan' The Clan is an Argentine thriller about the real-life Puccio family, which kidnaps for profit. NPR film critic Bob Mondello finds it an unnerving allegory.
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Kidnapping As A Family Business In The True Life Thriller 'The Clan'

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Kidnapping As A Family Business In The True Life Thriller 'The Clan'

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Kidnapping As A Family Business In The True Life Thriller 'The Clan'

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The new movie "The Clan" is a true story about an Argentine family with a dark family business. NPR critic Bob Mondello says for a surprisingly long time in the 1980s, this clan seemed to believe the family that slays together, stays together.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: You'd never guess the back story when you meet 20-something Alejandro Puccio's scoring a goal in a championship rugby match.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE CLAN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, cheering).

MONDELLO: He's the team's best player, popular, movie-star handsome, with a job in his family's sporting goods store and also in the family's other business, one they don't talk about.

The Puccio family kidnaps people in a country where a recent military dictatorship disappeared tens of thousands claiming they were subversives. This victim, a teammate of Alejandro's is pulled from a car in an abduction so much like the regime's political kidnappings that his first impulse is to yell...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE CLAN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, speaking Spanish).

MONDELLO: No fuimos nada - we didn't do anything. The military's no longer in charge, but Alejandro's father doesn't think democracy will last. And he still has friends in high places, so now the Puccios do for personal profit what the right-wing regime did for political control. A ransom will be paid, and Alejandro expects his teammate will then be released. It takes him a while to realize that that's not really his father's game plan. "El Clan" as the film is known in Argentina was a monster hit there, partly because director Pablo Trapero makes it easy to see this family as a stand-in for Argentine society - dad, brutal and dictatorial, riding herd over family members who are aware of what's happening even if they're not directly participating.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE CLAN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, speaking Spanish).

MONDELLO: Life goes on despite what everyone knows are the horrors being committed out of sight - scenes with the family washing dishes, say, with noise from the television not quite drowning out the shouts or pounding of a captive in the basement.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character, speaking Spanish).

MONDELLO: The director uses a pop soundtrack much as Martin Scorsese might.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INTO EACH LIFE SOME RAIN MUST FALL")

ELLA FITZGERALD: (Singing) Into each life...

MONDELLO: Lending the film a gangster-flick aesthetic. That the gangsters in this case were real and that they learned their trade from a gangster government makes "The Clan" an intriguingly unnerving little civics lesson. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INTO EACH LIFE SOME RAIN MUST FALL")

FITZGERALD: (Singing) Someday the sun...

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