Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones revisit some blasts from their pasts in The Family, a violent action comedy about a mob family in France thanks to the witness protection program.
De Niro does a little Analyze This as Giovanni Manzoni, who ratted out his mob pals back in Brooklyn and now has a $20 million price on his head. He is, he narrates, a nice guy who is prone to beat people senseless or to death over things like poor service, disrespect and the like. And hes in France. Funny.
Pfeiffer tones down her Married to the Mob turn as Maggie, the long-suffering wife, moving to yet another town where these people The Blakes, theyre called this time need to fit in. But her encounters with rude French salesclerks bring out the practicing pyromaniac in her.
Their kids Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John DLeo) have another high school to reconnoiter, master and have their way with.
And Jones is a milder-mannered version of his U.S. marshal characters as a government agent who tries to keep these four alive, and keep the incidents with the locals to a minimum.
As the Blakes set up shop in small-town Normandy, Gio, or Fred, decides hell write his memoirs. His cover story now is that hes a writer. Silly Fred he says hes doing a D-Day book when he doesnt know a thing about the subject. Maggie finds a charming, ancient church, and curdles the blood of the local priest with her confession (which we dont hear).
Warren, 14, is bullied, but born to work the angles until hes had his revenge. And Belle is a streetwise bombshell who sets her sights on a student teacher as her first-ever sexual conquest.
Gio narrates as he types up his book, detailing his history, papering over his sadistic impulses. Everybody speaks English, and the movie lacks much in the way of Frenchness, which is a pity.
And even though the cast is first rate, The Family tends to lurch between laughs, with the most reliable humor coming from the Blakes over-the-top violence. De Niro is the funniest hes been since Analyze.
Director Luc Besson established his action credentials decades ago with La Femme Nikita and The Professional. But nobody ever accused Monsieur Luc of having a flair for comedy.
Whatever the source material (Tonino Benacquistas novel Malavita), this feels inspired by Netflixs Lilyhammer, about a mobster hiding out in Norway.
Besson & Co. should have learned from that the fish out of water/culture clash stuff is where the fun comes from.
The mayhem is personal, plentiful and graphic enough to make you wince. The beat-downs are funny enough in their excess, but nobody in this film gets what he deserves. And the bystanders in the films quite-high body count earn their fate.
Besson aims his movie at anyone whos ever held a grudge at an ill-mannered French waiter or clerk. If you like your wish fulfillment payback served with a baseball bat, The Family is the French travelogue for you.