02nd Apr2014

‘The Family’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, John D’Leo, Jimmy Palumbo, Domenick Lombardozzi, Stan Carp, Vincent Pastore, Jon Freda, Michael J. Panichelli Jr. | Written by Luc Besson, Michael Caleo | Directed by Luc Besson

the-family

Remember that Robert De Niro guy, the one that impressed us in movies like Mean StreetsTaxi Driver and Goodfellas? Along with Al Pacino more recently we’ve seen them move more to comedy with somewhat mixed results.  It’s fair to say that Pacino has suffered more, with De Niro and up to a point he’s been able to keep that wise guy style image intact, which probably made casting him in The Family easy.

When snitching on the Mafia it’s assumed you are signing your own death sentence, so when CIA Agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) once again has to relocate Giovanni Manzoni now known as Fred Blake (Robert De Niro) and his family in the witness protection it feels like this is the family’s last chance of finally settling down.  Placing them in a small French town it’s not long before Fred’s wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) and his children Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo) revert to their old “family” habits.  With Frank also handling small town politics with his mafia skills, chaos soon ensues, leading to the Mafia learning just where The Family have been hidden.

There is a strange tone to The Family and my guess the cause is Luc Besson’s style.  With a hard and violent edge there is comedy in the story but the violence can be quite jarring at times to what is a warm-hearted look at a family trying to find their roots in a town that looks down on their American culture, though in truth the French come across as more hypocritical in the way they act.  The fact Fred and his family win them over says a lot for the nature of The Family.  Through violence and manipulation, Fred and his family actually fit in with how the town work.

What wins me over with The Family is the characters themselves.  Maggie is played well by Pfeiffer, it’s easy to picture her as a Goodfellas style wife, or even be reminded of her previous role as Elvira in Scarface. D’Leo as the son again is a character reminiscent of characters from Goodfellas, his way that he reads the various operations going on in the school and works his way to not only defeat bullies but “get a piece of the action” is reminiscent of the kind of up and coming youngster with a dreams of working for the Mafia.  Then of course we have Dianna Agron as Belle the psycho (as I call her).  Her violent streak becomes a highlight of the film and the fact she takes no-nonsense from the boys and men around her show her true strengths.  The fact though that the most important thing to these people is The Family says a lot about the focus of the movie.

I saved talking about De Niro’s character last because he takes a lot of the focus of the film and his attempts to lead a normal life show how hard it is for him to fit in.  The fact he looks at the potential of being a writer, yet ends up writing about his Mafia past show that really he misses his old life that he was pushed out of.  The duplicitous nature of Frank is something that we again saw in Goodfellas, Frank is still a part of the Mafia family in his own heart, but knows he can never return and the people he sees as his Mafia family want him dead lays heavy on the character.

With the action of the Mafia almost an afterthought in the film The Family has a warmer edge because in the end Frank and the other members of his family are the real focus, surviving life as a “normal” family is at times shown to be harder than remaining hidden from the people who want him dead.  When an attack does come the focus is on how people we care about actually survive and how even Tommy Lee Jones’ character, no matter how hard faced he is actually cares about these people.  The strange tone of the film may not be to everybody’s taste but if the film connects with you, chances are you’ll enjoy it more than you probably thought you would.

The Family is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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