The Family: Dark Mobster Comedy
Michelle PfeifferRobert De Niro...
In 1 Cinema
Directed by Luc Besson, the man behind cinematic hits such as The Fifth Element and Leon, dark comedy, The Family, tells the story of a sociopathic – yet extremely likable – family of four entrenched in mob life. Though it’s far from the French filmmaker’s best work, it doesn’t make the film, which is known in some parts of the world as Malavita, any less entertaining.
After ratting on his gangster friends to the FBI, former New York mobster, Giovanni Manzoni (De Niro), is enrolled in the FBI’s Witness Protection Program under the supervision of FBI Agent Stansfield (Jones) along with his family; wife Maggie (Pfeiffer), daughter Belle (Argon) and son Warren (D’Leo).
Continually blowing their cover with their red-blooded, impulsive approach to everyday problem solving, the family seek out a new hiding ground in the sleepy town of Normandy, France. Now going by the family name of Blake, they promise their faithful FBI handlers, agents Di Cocco (Palumbo) and Caputo (Lombardozzi), that they’ll keep a low profile and stay out of trouble.
But the Blake’s soon resort to their old habits; Maggie causes chaos at grocery store when shunned by staff, whilst Belle beats a couple of her fellow students to a pulp, all the while falling in love with her math tutor. Warren, who proves to be his father’s son, goes on to turn the entire school into his own mobster playground.
While his family is out causing havoc, Giovanni – who now goes by Fred – begins writing his memoirs and stories of why he thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, his defamed ex-bosses put out a $20 million bounty on the family.
Perfectly cast as the ex-mobster from Brooklyn, Robert De Niro throws a little Analyze This and Goodfellas vibes into the mix. Despite this, Pfeiffer steals most of the scenes with a perfectly executed eccentric aura of a mobster wife, complete with long nails, a Brooklyn drawl and hair curlers. Argon and D’Leo, meanwhile, fly under the radar, whereas Jones’ trademark deadpan approach is a perfect foil to De Niro.
Luc Besson and co-writer Michael Caleo have managed to create a perfect blend of quirky humour and extreme violence, while somehow infusing it all with the importance of family values. The picturesque French countryside setting is a positive sidenote to the film, although flashbacks and irregular use of De Niro voiceovers only proves to throw the story slightly off balance.
If you manage to look past its subtle flaws and somewhat of a bizarre set-up, The Family is peculiar, violent and quite often, extremely funny.