Rating: Imagine TV’s legendary Rob and Laura Petrie as a vicious mob couple now in the witness protection program. What if Rob had killed Carl Reiner simply because he couldn’t stand his officious conduct any longer? See The Family.
How could any gangster movie starring Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones that is directed by Luc Besson and has Martin Scorsese as an Executive Producer be worth missing? Even with its R rating and its uber-violent environment from beginning to end, it is a work of malignant art.
It seems that the Manzoni family is in its sixth year of being protected by the FBI as a result of daddy Giovani’s testimony against the mob. Forced to move repeatedly given the underworld’s continual attempts to kill them, they are now living in Normandy under the name of Blake.
Please understand that the parents, played by Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer, were not fans of June and Ward Cleaver from the “Leave It to Beaver” TV series (1957-63). DeNiro is a former hitman who has not lost his taste for blood. Writing his life’s story on an old typewriter to occupy his time, he dispatches anyone who makes the mistake of insulting him. God forbid if you sell him a bad batch of lobsters or try to con him just because you think you are a smug house plumber.
Michelle Pfeiffer is back on top of her game as DeNiro’s wife, Maggie. There is nothing remotely weak about her, as a French grocery store learns to its detriment when customers try to ridicule her for being an American. And watch for her as she crawls across the floor with a knife to save her beloved husband, in the process looking like a lioness closing on the kill.
What also adds surprising strength of the film are the performances of Dianna Agron and John D’Leo, playing the teenage children whose hunted parents stay one step ahead of doom. As they enter their first day of high school in France, you quickly learn that both of them are capable of kicking the living crap out of any idiot who demeans them.
Ms. Agron, the spitting image of Emma Roberts in her role in We’re the Millers, reveals her hidden Medusa Syndrome when she demolishes a high school student with a tennis racket when he makes unwanted sexual advances. If she could hit a tennis ball as accurately as she did this goofball’s head, even Serena Williams couldn’t defeat her at Wimbledon.
Finally, Tommy Lee Jones plays Agent Stansfield, a withered old coot simply trying to keep DeNiro’s besieged family alive. Though all of his wards drive him crazy when they continually violate simple house rules, he has an obvious affection for them despite their tarnished souls. Simply stated, if they are going to die, then the mob will have to take them out over his dead body.
For all of its violence and DeNiro’s love of the “F” word, The Family has such immense charm and edgy humor that you can’t help but tag along to see what happens. Yes, the mob is destined to find them and people will die, but death waits for us all, doesn’t it?