The Family
dir Luc Besson
scr Luc Besson, Michael Caleo
prd Luc Besson, Ryan Kavanaugh, Virginie Silla
with Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D'Leo, Tommy Lee Jones, Oisin Stack, Jimmy Palumbo, Domenick Lombardozzi, Cedric Zimmerlin, Stan Carp, Vincent Pastore, Jon Freda
release US 13.Sep.13, Fr 23.Oct.13, UK 22.Nov.13
13/France Europa 1h51
The Family
Nowhere is safe: De Niro and Pfeiffer

agron d'leo jones
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Family Far too dark and violent to be a comedy - even a black one - this breezy crime thriller never hits its stride. It's efficiently made, as we expect from Besson, but the script is both lazy and over-serious. So we never believe a moment of it, and we can never identify with the characters.

After snitching on the mob, the Manzoni family went into witness protection, moving from town to town around Europe as their handler Stansfield (Jones) and his assistants (Palumbo and Lombardozzi) struggle to cover up their violent ways. Their newest home is a small village in Normandy, where Fred (De Niro) is posing as a writer while his wife Maggie (Pfeiffer) gets the lay of the land. Their teen kids Belle and Warren (Agron and D'Leo) quickly work out the system at the local school. But all are quickly courting trouble again.

For a French film, the movie is eerily packed with negative stereotypes, from the strangely ugly French cast members to the backwards technology they use. They also all speak English with silly accents. It's clearly set before 2002 (they're still spending francs), but only the invading American mobsters have mobile phones. And unsurprisingly, Fred's old boss (Carp) figures out where they are through a farcical plot point.

But then the film is packed with unlikely events that erode our suspension of disbelief. Everything about the script is contrived, from Belle's yearning adoration for her new tutor (Stack) to Warren's instant mastery of every vice at school. This leaves decent young actors Agron and D'Leo with nothing to do on-screen, because there's nowhere they can take these characters. And the more serious dramatic moments are ignored because they seem to have happened by accident.

Meanwhile, De Niro and Pfeiffer have done these characters so many times before that they're practically sleepwalking (an extended GoodFellas gag is painful). Even so, they're consistently watchable, even as things take a few deeply distasteful turns right from the start. And the big climactic sequence is a pointless massacre that only the most bloodthirsty viewers could laugh at. Yes, this is an ugly movie on almost every level, certainly not the madcap black comedy it's marketed to be.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 18.Sep.13

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