One of the best filmmakers in the action genre is French director Luc Besson. After a great debut in 1985 with wildly entertaining Subway, Besson soon made a name for himself. With La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional, and The Fifth Element, Besson was soon established as one of the best in the industry when it comes to action films. Soon after, his career went downhill.
After the disaster of The Messenger: The Joan of Arc Story, he began to mainly produce films. Besson struggled, with many putting his name behind bad flicks like Taxi, Arthur and the Invisibles, and Hitman, he finally found success with Taken. The Liam Neeson actioneer was a giant hit with audiences, and well liked by critics overall, giving the Besson name more weight. The follow-ups have not been so good… From Paris with Love, Columbiana, and even Taken 2 have been largely misguided and dull action flicks. To rebound, he is finally back behind the director’s chair for The Family, with Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, who also are looking for a bit of a rebound. Sadly though, The Family is a largely subpar effort.
The Family follows former mobster Giovanni, who is now in witness protection with his family after ratting out the mob. As the family tries to settle into their new lives, the mobsters he betrayed are back, and looking to get revenge.
The cast here does a great job. Everything you know and love about Robert De Niro is present here. From the wise guy charm, to his mobster self that we have seen in countless films, De Niro isn’t doing anything new, but does do a great job. Pairing alongside him with ease is Michelle Pfeiffer, who is great as well. Both play rather mean spirited characters, although they are able to make them charming in their own way.
Also holding their own is the supporting cast. Young actors Dianna Agron and John D’leo actually are able to hold their own against the veteran actors in the film. Both are likable and sharp, and have great comradery together. Tommy Lee Jones has a small role in the film, but is able to bring that classic grumpy-like personality to his character and make him amusing.
The family dynamic in the film is well established. De Niro, Pfeiffer, Agron, and D’leo all have a sincere chemistry together. They all seem like they would be related, and they each played off each other well. Agron and D’leo especially had a very good chemistry together as brother and sister, which really added a nice element to the film.
There is a nice build up of tension throughout the film. Throughout the film, there is an underlying feeling that something bad is going to happen, and the film does a good job of establishing that tension and building it up to the final act.
There are points in the film where elements are taken to too far of an extreme just to exaggerate a point, and this is mainly felt with De Niro’s character. Its crystal clear that his character is sinister to say the least, but that doesnt mean he has to kill almost anyone who crosses his face just to show that. Not only with De Niro, most of the family in general just take some of their actions too far, just to exaggerate what kind of character they are.
That leads into this point, the characters in here are kind of hard to really like. While it seems like this is a movie that wouldnt try to make you like this characters, the third act tries to pull a 180 turn and make these characters likable. Now that is really hard to do, when the characters are ruthless to the extreme that it’s hard to really find them likable. The film really should have just not tried to make these characters sympathetic, yet make it more of a black comedy. Or make it more like another De Niro flick.
The comedy elements in general all fall flat. The humor in the film is very much like something that would be in a family film, or a PG comedy. It’s all way too silly and over the top to really garner any laughs. There is even a laughable bad bit that involves Goodfellas, which was just an embarrassment to see. Even stranger, the film tries to have it both ways, by being very vulgar, yet the jokes itself very kiddish, which is just an odd hodgepodge.
The action in the film is also a let down. Luc Besson did some of the best action films of all time, yet the action in general is lacking to say the least. The big final showdown between the mob and the family is shot poorly, with their not really being a consistent flow to the action going on. For such a legend in the veteran in that field to shoot something that poorly is a surprise.
The biggest problem with The Family is that the film has no clue what is really is. This directionless film goes from really silly scenes, to big action bits, to even an attempted suicide, and it does so in very clunky way. Tonally, this is one of the most uneven films of the year, it just jumps around as it chooses, and comes off largely as an attempt to please everyone, which really just pleases no one.
The script in is weak, especially in the story department. The way the story progresses is basically taking a big leap in faith of logic to believe how ridiculous some of the the elements get. I wont spoil, but let’s just say a newspaper travels from Normandy to New York in a certain manner that is just complete bullshit. Also, this is one of those films that just happens to have characters do certain actions, yet there is no real knowledge if the character can really do that. It’s almost like the film is making the script up as it goes along.
The Family is ultimately a hodgepodge of ideas and concepts that never really comes together. Its overall far too crude and violent for kids, but too silly and stupid for adults.
Take a Shot: Whenever a character says “fuck”.
Take a Shot: During each plot convenience
Take a Drink: During the Goodfellas bit, you are going to need it.
Take a Drink: To the fact that an RPG can blow up a house, but not kill the person inside it, great logic movie!