Luc Besson‘s latest mobster comedy The Family is perhaps the most tonally confusing film of the year. The Family isn’t quite a traditional mobster film in the same line as Martin Scorsese‘s finer pictures, but at times it thinks that it is, which leaves us with a confusing aftertaste. Robert De Niro gives another weird performance, while the rest of the cast does their best to try and maintain a serious face during some of the film’s awful comedic attempts. The Family is a strange beast.
Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) was once a powerful mobster. He’s now under witness protection with his family and must constantly relocate in hopes of never being found and murdered by the ones he snitched on. Agent Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) keeps an eye on Giovanni and his family as they move into a new town yet again.
Giovanni’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and two kids (John D’Leo & Dianna Agron) have no troubles adapting to their new lifestyles, yet Giovanni is constantly running into trouble coming to terms with his boring and uninteresting cover, while he does a little bit of self-discovering.
He starts writing a book about his past and while doing so former mobsters find him and begin tracking him down to finally payback some outstanding debts.
The Family is Luc Besson‘s latest mess of a film. It shuffles between being a traditional mobster flick, full of over-acted accents and mobster cliches, while also attempting to be some sort of offbeat family comedy.
It succeeds in being neither, because Besson has absolutely no idea what makes for a good mobster flick or a good comedy. Producer Martin Scorsese does absolutely nothing to put his own stamp on the film, probably having very little involvement with anything other than letting them use a clip from Goodfellas at one point.
The Family is mostly a strange film that borderlines on being completely flat and lifeless, while occasionally dipping below that and becoming something truly awful. It’s just so bizarre, not to mention oddly edited and at times just ridiculously bad.
Robert De Niro turns in a performance that I just cannot pin a finger on. There are moments in the film where he truly shines and becomes something funny and nostalgic, yet he mostly refrains and sticks to the “safe zones”, which are full of typical old man babbling about the past and the “good times”. Still, De Niro is more alive in The Family than he has been in pretty much anything over the past decade.
It’s great watching him actually connect with the material, even if the material is mangled and trying way too hard to be a copy of a film that De Niro would have done in the 80’s or 90’s.
Directing wise, Besson shoots with competent hands and nothing else. The film is easy to watch in the visual sense, but nothing about the script or the story makes for anything of value. There’s little action and just no real purpose, aside from watching De Niro sulk in his past times. I’m not exactly sure why Besson didn’t bother sitting in the producer’s chair on this one, because I’m sure one of his usual directors could have given this film a much-needed dose of flavor.
The Family is something that makes you question if it’s supposed to be a comedy or not. It’s that awful. There’s just too many moments where as an audience member you don’t know if you should be laughing or taking the scene seriously, which spells trouble for the entire film. I’m not even sure if Besson or De Niro knew what kind of movie they were making, which makes it even worse for us viewers trying to decide if this film has anything to say at all or not.
I’d go with no, simply because De Niro seems to only be giving a mildly interested performance, while Besson is working strictly on auto-pilot, trying to make something that makes sense from a story structuring standpoint, but nowhere else. The Family is strange, bizarre and confusing at times and not exactly something that you’d want to waste any of your time on if you had a choice not to.
The Family – 5/10