Luc Besson has had a pretty prolific career, as a writer, producer and a director. When I had heard that he was making a gangster film with Robert DeNiro, which was being produced by Martin Scorsese, I thought it would be interesting to see where the project went. Would it be on the same level as The Professional, one of his finest works or would it be a smaller, intimate affair, much like Angel-A. The end result isn’t on either of those spectrums, in fact, as The Family turns out to be a solid comedy, with a few decent gags and some cool moments to make for an entertaining affair.
Giovanni Manzoni (Robert DeNiro) ratted on his former bosses and is now in the witness protection program, along with his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), their daughter Belle (Dianna Argon) and their son Warren (John D’Leo). Agent Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) is their point man and finds it extremely difficult, due to the entire family’s inability to lie low. Since their old mafioso habits die hard, they eventually find themselves on the radar of their incarcerated mob boss, who puts out a hit on the family. As the “Blake” family begins to get accustomed to living in France, the rude awakening of hit men completely reverts them back to their old ways and hijinks ensue.
While The Family isn’t as great as it could have been, its still a fairly entertaining film by Besson and his solid cast. While there have been better films with both DeNiro and Pfeiffer, it seems like they’re having fun, which is a constant reminder of what this film is offering. Visually, the film is constructed very well, by having solid camera work and tight editing. There are a few visual gags that deliver some solid laughs, like both children taking over the school and DeNiro’s imaginary actions against his French neighbors, create some decent laughs.
There’s also an interesting meta moment, that made me think about Robert DeNiro’s career in general. DeNiro, under the alias of Fred Blake, is asked to talk about an American film at a monthly gathering in the town. When the film print doesn’t show up, which is replaced by Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, DeNiro gets excited to watch the film and relive his gangster days. Now I’m sure that this was just a joke amongst the filmmakers and probably at the request per Marty, but it seems like a pretty weird thing. Here you have Robert DeNiro, at a point in his career where he doesn’t seem to care about what roles he picks, to watch a film, in where he gives an incredible performance with a classic collaborator. I get the feeling DeNiro isn’t just laughing at himself in Goodfellas, but laughing at audiences not having fun at his most recent endeavors.
Regardless of all this, Luc Besson’s The Family is a pretty decent time, where some great actors turn in some decent performances, in order for a few laughs, a few thrills and solid action sequences. Recommended.