The Family review

Robert DeNiro stars as Giovanni, a mafioso who ratted to the FBI and is now stuck in witness protection with his family in France, in this Martin Scorsese produced action-comedy.


The Family is directed and co-written by Luc Besson, a French filmmaker who in the 1990s made such memorable films as Leon, La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element. He has rarely been in the director’s chair over the last two decades, but has become a prolific writer and producer of such films as The Transporter and Taken.

While this is a comedic twist on DeNiro’s gangster persona, the film’s approach isn’t nearly as broad as Analyze This. Besson adds unexpectedly quirky touches. The way in which Giovanni’s cover is blown is the sort of charming French whimsy you’d expect more from Jean-Pierre Jeunet than Besson. There’s also an amusing running gag about the expressiveness of a certain four-letter expletive.

Michelle Pfeiffer, also returning to the genre after starring in Married to the Mob, plays Giovanni’s wife with John D’Leo and Glee’s Dianna Agron as their children. Each member of the family has some severe anger management issues and the film yields much of its humour from their “mob” reaction to dealing with simple issues like rude grocers, overpriced plumbers and randy teen boys. This is at times a graphically violent film with a notably dark sense of humour.

DeNiro could do this role in his sleep, but, while this isn’t Goodfellas level work, he isn’t slumming it either. Giovanni is writing his memoirs, which allows DeNiro to play the character as introspective and yet, at the same time, unable to stop his old ways.

Pfeiffer is also doing interesting work. She isn’t merely a standard mob wife, but, in many ways, Giovanni’s equal. The way she attempts to hold the family together while, at the same time, missing that other Family adds substance to the character and film.

Agron, finding a delicate mix of tough and vulnerable, is surprisingly strong as the daughter. D’Leo is solid, too, particularly in the scenes in which he manipulates his new school’s cliques to his advantage. Tommy Lee Jones has a small role as the FBI agent assigned to watch over Giovanni and his family. Jones does his usual gruff thing that is a welcomed addition to any movie.

Alec Kerr

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