Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Quick Cut Review - "The Family"

Directed by: Luc Besson
Starring: Robert De Niro,  Michelle Pfieffer and Tommy Lee Jones
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes  
Release Date: September 13, 2013

This family functions more like a well oiled machine than one of love.
Movies about the mob are a dime a dozen. You have your Godfathers, your Goodfellas and your Untouchables and a slew of others that have covered just about every inch of the genre, even including film's like Innocent Blood which feature vampire mobsters!  This of course begs the question; what else is there left to cover? In the case of writer/director Luc Besson's film The Family, not a whole lot. But by implementing some rather clever and even obvious changes or updates to the an old formula, it is possible to give it a new lease on life.

Case in point is the story where we follow the exploits of the Blakes, an ex-mafia associated family unit who have been shipped overseas to the greener pastures of France for witness protection after turning states evidence. The Blake family can't seem to settle down though as their mob sensibilities consistently still get the better of them forcing their stressed FBI handler to relocate them all over the France countryside whenever someone gets beat up, goes missing or otherwise ends up dead as a result of their homicidal tendencies.

As far as the casting goes, the film is just about perfect. As the father/husband, De Niro already has a built in association with the genre (Casino, Goodfellas, Godfather, Analyze This) and Pfeiffer seems to be channeling her performance from the 80's mafia comedy Married to the Mob, albeit with a bit more of a bite to her, which is just fine because she was already perfect in that role. Those two aren't the surprise though, John D'Leo and Dianna Argon as their teenage son and daughter steal the show more often than not with their exploits both in and out of school which takes bullying to a whole new level.

You mess with this family and you get burned...literally.
Rounding out the cast are a stable of great mafia character actors who chances are will be recognized by anyone who has ever seen a mob movie before and Tommy Lee Jones as the Blake family's beleaguered FBI handler who brings his usual dour charms. But the real star of the film is without a doubt the setting. Usually relegated to cliche-ridden locations such as New York or Brooklyn, it can't be overstated how important it was placing this story and these characters in a foreign country.

It essentially mashes the typical mob movie genre with a fish-out-of-water comedy of errors that culminates into something very familiar, a bit out of the box and extremely entertaining. Watching the Blake family settle down in their latest residence in Normandy, France and witnessing the ensuing chaos and oddities that they bring along with them made any of the more rudimentary elements of the script, such as all the scenes with the mob and their hitmen, easier to digest.


The Family works on just about every level one would expect from a mob movie starring Robert De Niro and directed by Luc Besson. With a healthy mixture of expected mob movie cliches, some inspired humor, a unique locale and a cast able to pull it all off, there isn't much to dislike here unless you are just not a fan of the mob genre in general. Fans of Besson or any of the cast are sure to get at least some guilty pleasures out of this family. 

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