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The Family - Movie Review

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The Family - Movie Review

2 stars

Any questions of whether writer/director Luc Besson could get his Fifth Element groove back after a subsequent run of disappointments are answered in the first half hour of his black comedy called The Family. Centered around a former Mob family stashed away as a ward of the Witness Protection Program, Besson throws out his one shopworn joke in the film’s opening frames and is never able to muster much else during its remaining runtime.

The joke is that the members of the Manzoni family aren’t able to turn away from their shady past as they continue to leave a trail of burned buildings, broken bones, and dead bodies in the wake of their violent outbursts even as the FBI does its best to hide the family amongst the innocuous population of a small Frech village.

We learn that, after having ratted out his New York crime family, patriarch Giovanni Manzoni, er, “Fred Blake” is now under the protection of the FBI along with his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter Belle (Glee’s Dianna Argon), and son Warren (John D’Leo). They hope this stay will last longer than those in the past, however it’s only a matter of time before their inability to blend in will certainly draw the attention of the hit men on their trail as it always does. Maggie sets off bombs in grocery stores (for not carrying peanut butter), Belle beats hands-y teen classmates to a bloody pulp with a tennis racquet, and Warren is running his own protection racket for his peers. All this before the family has been in their new digs for even a few weeks.

Yes, the Blakes are a handful for their FBI keepers led by Agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones), who set up shop across the street from the family’s nondescript, unnumbered house, but we quickly find out that The Family is quite the overwhelming handful for Besson as well. The laughs are played for broad dark comedy, but the humor quickly wears thin as the incessant barrage of brutal violence begins to wear us down after the umpteenth time someone is beaten savagely over the head with a baseball bat or another innocent victim is shot dead in the street while walking a dog. We get it. The Blakes are a violent family, but there are just too many scenes with the same gimpy payoff. And Besson’s flimsy execution does nothing to make us like his single-note characters.

Besson is known for his action sequences, having made his name in the genre on such heavyweights as Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element and to a lesser degree The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, but here he’s just not able to smoothly transition to the film’s more serious third-act action piece which undermines the film’s comedic opening.  We’re asked to take seriously the ramped up violence and danger facing the main characters as they fend off the mob henchmen sent to kill them, when earlier in the film taking a pipe wrench to the head or a bullet to the chest is all just a bunch of fun.

Thankfully however, the cast is always fun to watch and never ceases to entertain despite the broad-stroked Italian stereotypes with which they’re painted. DeNiro is a natural in the genre, Jones is as delightfully grumpy as ever, and it’s a quite a bit of fun watching Pfeiffer recall her impeccable Married to the Mob accent that never wavers. D’Leo does the most with his intriguing subplot while Agron’s Belle tends to suck the story’s momentum with her flirty virgin act.

The Family is a tired one-trick pony that wears out its welcome in the first half hour. And at a tad under two hours, unfortunately enough time remains to keep us wondering exactly what kind of movie it wants to be. The answer is certainly not to come from Besson himself as he clearly never figured that out either.

The Family - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.
Runtime:
110 mins
Director
: Luc Besson
Writer
: Luc Besson; Michael Caleo
Cast:
Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron
Genre: Comedy | Action
Tagline:
Michelle Pfeiffer is one bad mother
Memorable Movie Quote: "How much is a man's life worth?"
Distributor:
Relativity Media
Official Site:
https://www.facebook.com/TheFamilyMovie
Release Date: September 13, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.

Synopsis: The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging as their old habits die hard.

No details available.

 

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