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DIRECTOR: Luc Besson
CAST: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, John D’Leo, Dianna Agron, Tommy Lee Jones
CLASSIFICATION: 16 LV
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
There’s not much to laugh about in Luc Besson’s dark comedy The Family. The plodding film follows a former mob boss who snitched on associates and wound up overseas in a witness protection programne with his wife and kids. But rather than try to assimilate, the clan can’t stop resorting to their old ways, which consist mainly of inflicting mayhem on innocents.
As the movie opens, Giovanni Manzoni (De Niro) is hiding under the pseudonym Fred Blake and moving into a new secret hideaway with wife Maggie (Pfeiffer), son Warren (D’Leo) and daughter Belle (Agron). Their noisome personalities and unlawful inclinations have forced the family to quickly uproot from Paris and the Côte d’Azur, so now they’re trying out a tiny town in Normandy. Along for the ride are a few FBI agents, including Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones).
Before the quartet unpack, they’re already up to no good. Giovanni has a body to bury and Maggie blows up a grocery store because the proprietor turned her request for peanut butter into a screed against American obesity.
Gio and Maggie’s teenagers have picked up a few tricks and traits from their parents. Warren is an accomplished con artist, forger and intel collector, and Belle – a seemingly serene blonde princess – launches into a game of badminton using the face of one of her peers as a shuttlecock.
While there is potentially an ounce of poetic justice when Belle unleashes her fury on a boy who boorishly hits on her, there isn’t the same sense of comeuppance when Gio takes people down. When a plumber tries to fleece the mobster, Gio responds by breaking the man’s leg in a dozen places.
That’s the problem with the movie. The Blakes think they’re vigilantes, but in most other movies they’d be the bad guys.
While De Niro can ace playing a father (he nabbed an Oscar nomination for Silver Linings Playbook) and a mobster (he won an Academy Award for The Godfather Part II), he doesn’t add much here. Neither does Pfeiffer, whose Brooklyn accent is all drawn-out vowels and dropped Rs one moment and gone the next.
After the movie limps for an hour-and-a-half, Besson switches gears and does what he does best. A showdown during the last few scenes is thrillingly suspenseful. Gio and his family finally channel their anger towards worthy adversaries rather than defenceless French people. The scenes are hardly funny, but for a few moments the movie manages to be fun. – Washington Post
If you liked Did You Hear About the Morgans? or Federal Protection you will like this.