Family, The (2013)
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones Dianna Agron, John D'Leo
Plot: 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.
Genre: Action / Comedy / Crime
Rating: M18 for violence, language and brief sexuality.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
Luc Besson is a hit-or-miss filmmaker. He has hit the bullseye once, most convincingly in Leon: The Professional (1994), still his most accomplished work to date. He has also gone on to make pictures like The Fifth Element (1997) and The Lady (2011), showing his versatility in tackling different genres and material, but he seems to have a penchant for making wacky, unserious fare that don't quite sit well with critics.
He does just that in The Family, also known as Malavita in some countries, or We Are a Nice Normal Family here in Singapore. It is a comedic take on organized crime and the genre of the gangster movie, but while it provides some interesting moments, it remains a flat and uninspiring effort.
One of the these moments sees Robert De Niro's Fred Blake engaging in a dialogue with French audiences after the screening of Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990), a meta-filmic instance that sees The Family rising up into something more than just generic parodic fare. It is no coincidence that Scorsese is also the executive producer of Besson's film.
Oblivious to the audience, Fred is a wanted mobster himself, hiding under FBI witness protection in a quiet French town with his family – wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter (Dianna Agron) and son (John D’Leo), all of whom show shockingly violent tendencies in the movie. It is sometimes funny to watch the brutality, and that is the intention of Besson, who doesn't shy away from depicting the stereotypical gangster (family).
Even with De Niro and Pfeiffer on board, The Family doesn't quite engage as it should. There are long, dreary stretches with dialogue that is as dull as it gets, in particular scenes involving De Niro and Tommy Lee Jones (who plays an FBI agent), two veteran actors who can make even the most uninspired script work. But not this time.
Besson's film becomes better in the final act though, featuring an action showdown that gives it a much-needed jolt of energy. The handling of tone remains weak as Besson's comedic stamp somehow doesn't gel with the drama. Yes, it is a comedy-drama, but it doesn't even feel satisfactory, let alone satisfying. A disappointment at best, though it might just intrigue the casual, bored moviegoer.
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