The Family - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
ROBERT De Niro in a dark comedy about a Mafia informant, co-starring Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer and directed by Luc (Leon) Besson, ought to have been a sure thing. Alas, The Family is a horrid experience that’s notable only for its unnecessarily nasty streak.
De Niro plays ex-Mobster Fred Blake (aka Giovanni Manzoni) now in hiding in France with his family yet faced with the prospect of continually having to relocate because of bad and/or reckless behaviour.
Hiding out with him are his wife (Pfeiffer), teenage daughter (Glee‘s Dianna Agron) and son (John D’Leo), all of whom suffer from quick tempers, while watching over them in a state of near constant exasperation is their FBI handler Robert Stansfield (Jones).
With Mob hitmen closing in, however, it’s only a matter of time before things come to an explosive head.
On paper, The Family has bags of potential given the talents involved in front of and behind the camera. But it quickly proves itself to be an uninspired and ugly experience.
None of the film’s central characters are at all likeable, especially given their propensity for dishing out violence to whoever offends or gets in their way.
The formula is established early on in one especially distasteful scene involving Agron’s character who, within a day of being at her new school, is lured into a car full of lecherous male class-mates and forced to beat the living hell out of one to deter their potentially rapey advances.
D’Leo’s Warren also gets beaten to a pulp within the same day just for being American and smart, Pfeiffer’s Maggie lays waste to a supermarket full of, wouldn’t you know it, anti-American French bigots and De Niro’s Fred maims, beats and kills anyone who treats him disrespectfully (which comes down to just about everyone he meets). And when not acting on his impulses, he’s fantasising about it, allowing Besson more opportunity to toss in some more supposed comedy violence.
Needless to say, subtle this is not. There’s little room for character complexity, which means the cast largely sleepwalk through the film with the big three content to trade on reputation. But a decision to place De Niro as guest speaker at a film club night that happens to be showing Goodfellas merely serves to underline just how inferior this particular film is.
Besson, meanwhile, struggles to invest the film with any heart or bring any ingenuity to the action scenes, which further disappoints given his past efforts on Leon and Nikita.
But these are just a few of the things that make The Family such a jarring experience. It’s a wholly depressing, largely irredeemable effort from start to finish.
Running time: 113mins
UK Release Date: November 22, 2013