The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Family | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Family

A criminal American family in the witness protection program struggle to adapt to their new lives in Northern France.

Directed by: Luc Besson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D'Leo, Tommy Lee Jones

New York mob boss Giovanni (De Niro) and his family (Pfeiffer, Agron and D'Leo) are entered into the witness protection after he testifies against crime lord Don Luchese (Stan Carp). After causing problems wherever he is assigned by his FBI minder Stansfield (Jones), Giovanni and his family find themselves in the town of Normandy in the north of France. Here, the family once again struggles to fit in. Through a twist of fate, Luchese discovers the location of his betrayer and sends a bunch of goons to France to take revenge on Giovanni and his loved ones.
20 years ago, the prospect of the director of Leon (aka The Professional) teaming up with the star of Taxi Driver would have gotten movie fans seriously excited. Two decades later and the early triumphs of both Besson and De Niro seem like a lifetime away, the former falling into the world of B-grade Euro action flicks, the latter consistently appearing in dud after dud. The two have teamed now for an entry in that most derided of genres, the French comedy. The Family was released with little fanfare in the US back in September but like a fart in church, you can try to sneak it out quietly but you can't disguise the smell. And this movie is one serious stinker.
Why Besson, a master action film-maker, decided to try his hand at comedy is baffling. The script, adapted from the novel Malavita by French author Tonino Benacquista, rehashes a series of "fish out of water" cliches but struggles to mine any laughs from its culture clash setup. Bizarrely, considering it's a French film, the movie spends most of its time mocking the French. The trouble is, the central American family aren't remotely appealing, indulging in bizarre bouts of over the top violence, perpetrated against almost everyone they encounter, and the brutality is extreme (a teenage boy has his face beaten in with a tennis racket, a crooked businessman is dragged behind a car and a teenage girl is beaten unconscious in a bathroom).
There are few who can stage an action set piece quite like Besson and the climactic shootout shows just what he's capable of. It's a scene that's completely out of whack with the comic tone of the rest of the movie though, with innocent French locals gunned down in cold blood and even going so far as to have Pfeiffer's character threatened with rape.
Why Besson is making B-grade dross like this while mediocre TV directors are helming Hollywood's biggest action fests is beyond me.

Eric Hillis