Dir: Luc Besson
Cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D’ Leo, and Tommy Lee Jones
Synopsis: The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging as their old habits die hard.
*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.”
Based on Tonino Benacquista’s novel Malavita, The Family stars Robert De Niro as Fred Blake aka Giovanni Manzoni, a one-time mob boss now in Witness Protection after ratting out his pals. With a bounty on his head from an imprisoned former Mafia cohort, the authorities (led by Lee Jones) relocate Fred and his family — wife Maggie (Pfeiffer), daughter Belle (Agron), son Warren (D’Leo), and dog Malavita — to Normandy.
Fred and his family try to adapt to life in a boring small French village where the townsfolk don’t seem to be happy with Americans moving into their small town. This leads to altercations with neighbors, local officials, shop keepers, school, you name it. Meanwhile, the mob narrows their search for the family. Needless to say, it wouldn’t be a movie if the bad guys didn’t eventually catch up with the good guys (or in this case, the less bad guys) in a bullets-blazing finale and in a true Luc Besson fashion.
It’s interesting to see De Niro, Lee Jones and Pfeiffer play up their somewhat “typecast” characters. De Niro has poked fun at his mobster film legacy for quite awhile now and he does it here again, but it still works. Pfeiffer, whose early mob wife roles include Scarface and Married to the Mob, puts on an Italian/NY accent that doesn’t sound out of place. Then there’s Tommy Lee Jones playing an unsmiling, no-nonsense lawman. But it all works because there good actors.
As solid as all three major stars are in the film, you may find yourself equally impressed with the two younger leads playing the Blake kids. Agron shows she can do more than simply be that girl from Glee, although at times her performance for me was a bit too much, while new comer D’Leo steals his scenes and proves he’s truly his father’s son.
Like I said this is a Luc Besson-directed movie so there’s plenty of violence (but not gory) and action. Besson throws in flashbacks to Fred’s past criminal life, which helps us get to known more of De Niro’s character. It also helps since the movie is told through Fred’s voice because he’s writing his memoirs. But through this, we see how Fred holds nothing back. He knows he’s done bad things in his past but we still root for him and his family in the end.
All in all, The Family has it all; action, drama, comedy, and a little romance. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and it leads to us having a good time too. Are there things that are a bit predictable? Sure, but it’s still fun to see.
4 out of 5