The Family movie poster
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The Family
The Family movie poster

The Family Movie Review

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Robert De Niro is playing an Italian gangster again. In a comedy, but we'll take what we can get. The Family, the latest from Luc Besson, is a moderately entertaining crime thriller that unfortunately fails to reach its potential. But Robert De Niro. As a gangster.

The Family is about Fred Blake (De Niro), a former gangster who has just moved to a small French town under the witness protection program. Fred and his headstrong wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), calculating son (John D'Leo) and beautiful but psychotic daughter (Dianna Agron) attempt to fit in and keep low key profiles. They're not very good at it.

The Family is fast-paced and generally amusing, featuring a decent fish-out-of-water premise and spotted with thoroughly entertaining moments. At the same time, it isn't clear what kind of movie Besson wanted it to be; is it a comedy? A thriller? As is, it's something in between.

The first act largely serves as a dark comedy, with Besson introducing each family member in entertaining fashion. It's during these moments where The Family really shines and demonstrates the potential of the premise. But after that, the movie loses its comedic edge and, as it chugs toward the climax it transforms into a straightforward, violent thriller.

Besson could have done a lot more with this movie. He could have made the characters and the situations they get into a lot funnier. He never carries through with his development of the two kids, who are arguably the most interesting of the bunch. Shouldn't D'Leo's scheming early in the story have paid dividends in the end, when shit hit the fan? And Agron, who seems to get turned on by violence, is turned into a weepy, suicidal romantic by the end. De Niro's character is consistently bland and isn't given much to do; even a scene where he is invited to screening of Goodfellas (in which De Niro starred) falls flat.

The premise plays like a comedy, but Besson largely veers away from humor as the story progresses. Unfortunately, as a crime thriller, it is extremely generic and not particularly interesting. Still, Robert De Niro as a gangster? That has to count for something.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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