Lively but predictable gangster flick starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer
Writer/director/producer Luc Besson made his name with genre thrillers like Subway and Nikita, but his touch has deserted him as he’s produced a conveyor belt of action melodramas ranging from the good (Taken) to glossy junk like Kiss of the Dragon, Colombiana or From Paris With Love. Despite strong leads in Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro, The Family falls firmly into the latter category; a lively premise and darkly humorous tone give way to predictable action and a dull finale.
Mobster boss Fred Blake and his wife Maggie (De Niro and Pfeiffer) have been relocated to a quiet village in the French countryside under the witness protection programme, with regular visits from federal agent Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) to keep them in order. With mob enemies howling for revenge, the Blakes only have to keep out of trouble, but their teenage children (Dianna Agron and John D’Leo) have inherited their parents gift for violence; she beats up over-amorous suitors while he organizes a high-school protection racket. A careless reference in a school newsletter alerts the Blake’s mafia enemies, and soon their sleepy hamlet is awash with gunfire.
The Family has a few neat moments, such as the cartoonish arrival of the mobsters by train scored to the menacing funk of Gorillaz' song 'Clint Eastwood'. But such knowingness frequently backfires, and a scene in which De Niro does a talk at his local film club to extoll the authenticity of Goodfellas (in which he somehow doesn’t recognize himself) is just embarrassing. Only Pfeiffer manages to make something fresh from the clichés, cheerfully blowing up a local convenience store for dissing her linguistic skills. Besson has clearly retained his willingness to please, but after an engaging start, The Family doesn’t hold up its end of the deal
General release from Fri 22 Nov.