Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D’Leo, Tommy Lee Jones
Rating: R (violence, language and brief sexuality)
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.
By Cole Schneider
Luc Besson’s latest film, The Family, has a tremendous amount of style and flair and a few laughs as well. There are also some poignant reflections on both American and French cultures, something only Besson could pull off without sounding either Anti-American or anti-French. Yet while there have been many instances of Besson successfully taking the eccentric and turning it into the absurd (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element), The Family just doesn’t have the script to hold up to the auteur’s visual preferences.
The jokes are run into the ground before they get off their feet and they are often self-indulgent. At one point they even reach to have Giovanni (Robert De Niro) speaking reverently about Goodfellas (which starred De Niro and was directed by this film’s producer, Martin Scorsese). De Niro, as well as the rest of the star cast (Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones), seem to have no idea who they are playing.
The Family is stuck somewhere in between being an independent French film that is held down by it’s American studio on one end, and being a Hollywood film that is imbued with the pretension often found in foreign films on the other end. There is no heart in this comic bloodbath and as a result the joy wastes away scene-by-scene. The film basks in the glow of over-wrought violence, but slips away before there is an ethic or a consequence attached. It is as if Goodfellas was void of Henry Hill’s downfall.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.
By Matt Greene
Director Luc Besson has a history of mixing great style, strong characters, and bright violence, most notably in his cult classic, “Leon the Professional”. It would seem that a gangster comedy that is essentially shooting to be a funny “Goodfellas” could be right down his alley. And while Besson presents some of his signature flair for stylish editing, and there are decent performances within, the comparisons to “Goodfellas” and “Leon” end there. Unfortunately, “The Family” is an ugly, unfunny, dull mess.
The film follows an American mob family who are relocated to France under the witness protection program and are doing their darndest to blend in. As expected, old habits die hard and they soon fall into their old ways (espionage, beatings, murder…you know, the usual). This is where most of the movie resides, asking us to laugh at this despicable family doing despicable things. This is a formula that can work (“Ocean’s Eleven”, the TV show “Arrested Development”), but characters must be sympathetic, charming, or likeable in some way, and in “The Family”, they simply aren’t.
The movie is not completely devoid of merit. There are some unique elements to the cat-and-mouse scenes with the villains, there are some killer editing choices (i.e. the way the movie fades to credits at the end), and De Niro has an absolutely righteous beard. But the tonal inconsistencies and weak script make it impossible to completely support. If you wanna go to the theatre, see “Blue Jasmine” or “The Conjuring”.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.