Cause honestly, who hasn’t wanted to take a bat to the head of some Frenchies?
The Manzoni family were a powerful mob family from the streets of Brooklyn, that is, until the head of the family, Giovanni (Robert De Niro), ratted on some of his fellow mob-buddies. Now, every mob-syndicate within the a hundred-mile radius wants him, as well everybody else in the clan dead. However, they can’t find them because the family’s been shipped off to France, where they hide out under new names, new occupations, and are protected under the Witness Protection program, lead by Tom Quintiliani (Tommy Lee Jones). At first, they are total fish-out-of-water because the French don’t like their American ways and want nothing to do with their non-stop diets of hamburgers and cholesterol, but eventually, through some brute force, everybody eventually lightens-up and welcomes the family in with open arms. Problem is, the family can’t seem to get their stories straight and get caught up in a bit too many lies, making them even closer to being found-out and killed.
In case you peeps haven’t been reading this site over the past two days, I’ve been doing me a little research into the good old days of Luc Besson, and I’ve come to the realization that the guy had a certain flavor that he has yet to taste since the 90’s ended. He’s had some real stinkers in the past, and in the past decade no less, but it seems like all he needed was a way to get back to his roots in order for some sort of comeback, right? Mobsters, violence, and French people are the perfect recipe for that comeback, right?
Well, hate to say it, but not at all.
The problem Besson’s material hits early on, and stays that way for quite some time, is that it’s just not funny. Yes, maybe a couple of chuckles here and there at a funny-quip or piece of dialogue that hit only my funny-bone, only, but nothing really spectacular like the trailers seemed to have promised me. And it isn’t that I’m a miserable old-sack of potatoes that needs intellectual humor to really get me laughing and holding my gut, it’s more that I just need something to make me laugh, and this movie did not have that. Besson tries, and he tries, and he tries again to make this material pop and sizzle with all of the comedic-beats still intact, but to no avail.
Which makes it even harder to sit-through when you take into consideration just how much physical, disturbing acts of violence are played-up for laughs here, but just come off as strange. For instance, there’s this whole “running-gag” (I guess) that De Niro’s character has where he can’t stand to be around a person who may condescend to him in the least bit, without at least beating the ever loving shite out of them. He’s a mobster, who has been in the mobster-game for quite some time, so I guess it makes sense. Not funny, but it makes sense. Anyway, most of the scenes that feature him talking to somebody who ticks him off a bit, is later followed by a scene showing the after-math of the violent acts he bestowed onto them, including one memorable act where he drags a dude from the back of his car. That’s right, he drags a dude, for what seems to be a very long distance, by the tail of his car. The dude’s all bloodied up, and looks as if he’s been through a cheese shredder, but you know, it’s funny, right?
And sadly, that’s how the whole film plays out. Jokes don’t land, and even when they do, they seem to become set-ups for terrible jokes that you didn’t want to see coming, and somehow hit you slap-dab in the face, and it just becomes a sort of disjointed affair. And don’t have me fooled here, I’m not saying you can have a dark comedy where the humor is hilarious, and the violence is gruesome, but there comes a certain line you just don’t cross, and Besson crossed it.
Which, I have to say, is very strange considering that the only REALLY good aspect about this flick that made me WANT to keep my eyes on the screen, was when Besson seemed to throw all of the joking and playfulness aside, and start to go back to his old ways with a gritty, threatening tone that would promise the killings of many, many characters. We’ve seen it in his brightest and best flicks, and it finally showed up here by the end and had me totally amped-up and ready-to-go for something that was considered “vintage-Besson”. However, once the violence actually got going and started to get very gruesome, Besson softened the blow up again, and went back to his goofy ways, making this less of a somewhat brutal thriller, and more of a crowd-pleaser. Boo on that idea, especially because I know Besson is capable of doing so much better when he just takes the gloves off and shows his bloody finger-prints.
The same thing could be said for very talented actors like Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro, however, it seems like they may have finally given up on doing anything commendable in any way, shape or form. De Niro, as we all know, has moments of pure inspiration, and has his moments of pure insanity, and this falls in somewhere in between. The guy’s charming enough to enjoy while he’s on-screen, but you know he’s better and when the most memorable moment comes from a Goodfellas reference, then you can’t help but reminded of a simpler, better time when he used to choose good material, and not anything that came his way and paid the bills. Looking at you, Fockers.
The same can sort of be said for Pfeiffer, but sort of can’t. The reason I say that is because even though she hasn’t really been doing much as of late, she still seems like she’s a welcome-enough presence that I wouldn’t mind seeing again and again. Sure, her character can be a little stereotypical and annoying, but there’s just something so sincere and natural about the way Pfeiffer has her seem, that makes it easier for us to get used to her. The only reason I didn’t include Tommy Lee Jones in that list up-above is because the dude, within the past decade, has proven that he still is able to choose great material and not worry about the roof over his head. He’s a bore to watch here, but I didn’t care all that much, mainly because I know he’s probably got something better cooking in the oven. As for De Niro and Pfeiffer, I don’t really know and personally, if they’re going to keep on going at the rate that they’re going at, I don’t care. I’m a dick, but that’s just the way it is.
Consensus: What separates The Family from all of the other bad mobster, dark comedies out there is that you know everybody could be so much better if they just put a little more effort into the proceedings, regardless of if the material wasn’t there or was.
3 / 10 = Crapola!!