I’ll admit, when I first heard that DeNiro was going to be starring in yet another mobster flick, I immediately said “how many times is it necessary to remake Goodfellas?” But The Family surprised me. It combined a mix of dark comedy and just the right amount of explosions to keep me hooked.
This time around, DeNiro plays Giovanni Manzoni, patriarch of the Manzoni clan and badly behaving witness protection member. Giovanni ratted out his mob buddies in the United States and as a result, is walking around with a pretty hefty bounty on his head, hence the whole need for witness protection. Unfortunately for the witness protection bureau, the Mazoni’s are completely batsh-t crazy and wouldn’t know the meaning of ‘low profile’ if slapped them in the face. Thanks to the fact that they are unable to maintain their cover, due to Giovanni’s thirst for violence and his wife Maggie’s (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) real bad habit of blowing things up, they get sent to the French countryside where they are expected to blend.
And of course, wackiness and violence ensue. Legs get broken, bullets fly and the F word gets a lot of use.
DeNiro shines in the roll of Giovanni Manzoni, but honestly, it’s DeNiro playing a mobster. How hard can it be? Michelle Pfeiffer also does justice to the quirky, crazy Maggie Manzoni. On top of that, you have their kids, Belle, played by Dianna Argon of Glee, and Warren (John D’Leo), who seem to have picked up some bad habits from their parents. Warren takes over the black market cigarette business on the first day of school, and seemingly sweet Belle beats the hell out of one of her classmates with a tennis racket.
There are quite a few clever tongue in cheek moments, with more than one nod to DeNiro’s history of playing mobsters. There’s even a chuckle worthy scene where Giovanni starts a debate during a screening of Goodfellas
The only disappointment in the acting comes from Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Agent Stansfield, Manzoni’s witness protection handler. Jones plays yet another straight laced, long suffering agent dealing with his charge’s shenanigans. It’s a common roll for Jones. Unfortunately, unlike DeNiro, who seems to have embraced his type cast, Jones just comes off as a little bit bored for the entire film.
The genre is a bit confusing as well. At one minute, you think you’re watching a violent action flick. At others, you feel like you’re watching a screwball comedy. Weirdly, for the storyline, it actually works. Much of this can be credited towards the Director, Luc Besson, who seems to have a pretty good handle on over the top, quirky action movies. Previous credits for Besson include La Femme Nikita, The Transporter and The 5th Element.
All in all, The Family is a good, fun movie with a fair amount of violence and gore. There are a couple of parts that don’t really fit, like Belle’s romance with her tutor, Giovanni’s attempt at writing and Jones’ lackluster performance, but overall, it’s worth the trip to see The Family.
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