The Family is an action comedy set in Normandy, France and starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lee Jones. It is directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Léon: The Professional) written by Besson and Michael Caleo, and based on the book Malavita (eng. Badfellas) by Tonino Benacquista
Giovanni Manzoni (De Niro) and his family have been in witness protection ever since he ratted out his mafioso family members and fled the country. It appears, though, that while you can take the family out of the mafia, you can't take the mafia out of the family. Preferring to handle the problems of their new lives the 'family' way, the Manzoni's also risk being tracked down by their former mafia comrades.
While marketed as an off-beat dark family comedy, The Family is not an R-rated Analyse This. It’s humorous, but it doesn’t go for a laugh a minute, opting for a bit more ‘realistic’ portrayal of an unusual situation. And it is far darker. The mafia connection is taken seriously, the stakes are real, and the violence is brutal.
The first and last quarters of the film are action packed and very entertaining.
De Niro turns in a strong, albeit familiar, performance.
Tommy Lee Jones is...Tommy Lee Jones.
There are a few moments of true poignancy.
Interesting use of subtitles.
The middle half of the movie is messy. Characters are not kept track of very well. Time passes indeterminately. Motivations and intentions are unclear.
Coincidence plays a major role in pushing the plot forward. Among the most egregious violations ever committed to film.
Interesting elements established in the first half of the film seem to be abandoned in the second half.
Michelle Pfeiffer’s inconsistent Brooklyn accent.
Neither teenage actor delivers a particularly strong performance.
Both teenage kid roles seem to exist only so that they can play necessary roles in the climax.
You'll like this movie if you:
*Like mafia films and homages to mafia films.
*Can forgive a rambling middle hour if the finale is exciting enough.
*Have a penchant for schlocky transitions.
*Have a soft spot for Robert De Niro.
You'll hate this movie if you:
*Can’t forgive the use of impossible coincidental events as major plot devices.
*Can’t abide brutal violence.
*Need your action comedies to be a tight 90 minutes. (This one weighs in at a heavy 110.)
The Bottom Line:
The Family is not a good film, but it is good fun. It has a bit more depth than its marketing might indicate. De Niro plays a character who is both unashamed of his past and desirous of a completely different life in the future. His discovery of writing as a way to process that journey, and the subsequent narration that writing gives us is intriguing - even if it is jettisoned for most of the second half. The middle hour feels jumbled and thrown together, lots of interesting moments that somehow don’t connect together to make a compelling whole. But the strength of the opening and closing acts, and the clear homage Besson is paying to classic mafia films provide enough enjoyment to make The Family a mild recommendation.
The Family is rated R for violence, language, and brief sexuality.