Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Giovanni Manzoni, or I guess I should call him Fred Blake (Robert DeNiro) is a snitch.  Now I forgot why Fred snitched on the mob, that is if writer / director Luc Besson even bothered to tell me why, but he snitched on the mob and now he's in the FBI's witness relocation program.  A program which sends its clients to sunny, quaint villa's in Europe as opposed to trailer parks in Tennessee or one cow towns in Nebraska.  Yet another instance where fantasy kicks realities ass.  Does this movie 'The Family' kick ass?  Not really.  I mean it could've if I knew what kind of movie it was trying to be.

So as we have mentioned, Giovanni Manzoni snitched on the mob for some reason or another, and his handler, FBI Agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) has relocated him to Italy.  I think.  As a side note, while Tommy Lee Jones has always been deadpan, but this time around I think he has taken his deadpan delivery to a point in this movie where I think he was actually dead.  That's pretty amazing when you think about it.  Acting while dead.  Back on point, Stansfield had to move Giovannia, or Fred out of Italy, because while you can take the boy out of the mob, you can't the mob out of the boy.  Now Fred is in a villa in France, along with his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), his adult teenage daughter Belle (Diana Agron) and his son Warren (John Di Leo). 

Life should be good in this little villa, but there are issues.  For one, the French tend to be rude on occasion which causes things to blow up every once in a while.  Or maybe a plumber isn't completely honest in his dealing which has bad ramifications for said plumber.  Or perhaps a boy gets picked by the local bully, which might lead to this boy gaming the system for his revenge, and heaven forbid you try to take advantage of the pretty girl.  Not recommended.  The Blake family, in a word, is psychotic. 
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We've seen enough movies to know that you can't go snitching on the mob and then hope to go on about your merry business, and the leader of the mob that got snitched on has been looking for Fred Blake like crazy for years.  And damn if he didn't find him in one of the more wacky scenarios in the history of all of cinema. 

Now the Blake family looks to be in all sorts of trouble.  The Mob is in the south of France with bad intentions.  Really bad intentions.  I mean I don't actually know any mobsters, but if I did I would have to ask them is raping a victim really necessary before putting a bullet in the victims head.  That doesn't seem logical to me, but then I'm not a mobster.  Anyway, we hope the Blake family can make it out of this mess, I guess, once Fred gets back from his 'Goodfellas' retrospective.  Yep, 'Goodfellas'.  Oh Robert, what are we going to do with you?

Erratic and uneven, while at the same time being plodding and predictable, thy name is 'The Family'.  Now I think, and I could be wrong here as I have been many times before, but I think that Mr. Besson was shooting for a 'Dark Comedy' with 'The Family', and after watching the film I can say I could see the comedy, and I could see the darkness, but what I don't think I ever did see was the two coming together.  The first fifteen or twenty minutes of 'The Family' was kind of comedic, and it is possible that the movie was also darkly comedic in the early going, but it's been awhile… like a day… so I can't rightly remember, but then it just stopped being funny and just turned dark.  While I'm sure if it was handled differently, breaking somebody's legs with a sledge hammer, or running somebody over with your car on a motorcycle or attempting suicide or murdering an entire town can be funny, but it just really wasn't all that funny here.  After a while all attempts at comedy were abandoned, at least as far as I could tell, and this movie just turned brutal until becoming some kind of 'Assault on Precinct 13' styled action movie.  Erratic.

It does help, of course, to have Robert DeNiro around who at this late stage in the great actors career seems to have no problem making fun of himself, at least if the dollars line up, and Michelle Pfeiffer was a joy to watch with her Brooklynese accent… or was it Queens?  In fact, all of the members of the family were fun to watch in action, it's just that the movie surrounding these people wasn't all that much fun.  Then there's Tommy Lee Jones who looked like he could've used a defibrillator if one was available. 

At the end of this day I still don't know what to make of 'The Family'.  It's not a particularly good movie with its lack of a consistent theme and uneven presentation, but it is well acted and briskly paced which does stave off boredom.  Dark comedy is tough to pull off.  This is one that would've been better served by just sticking with wacky comedy, or maybe just a straight brutal mob revenge picture.
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