THE FAMILY is one of my favorite movies this year. It's funny, it's witty, it's quick on its feet and it's surprisingly heartwarming. It's got firepower, it's got action, though it has a hard time finding peanut butter. What a great blend of family drama and gangster comedy. Luc Besson, the great director who brought us such masterpieces as Leon The Professional and The Fifth Element, is back and he's bringing with him a family that's as tough as their patriarch is. Led by three great thesps Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lee Jones, and complimented by young talents like John D'Leo and Dianna Agron, THE FAMILY aims to entertain those of us who love a bit of Goodfellas added a hint of humor. Just like that old saying: Never go against the family.
In a nutshell, it's about a family who was part of the mob right up until the patriarch, Robert De Niro ratted out the bosses and since then, De Niro's family has been in witness protection program, and the bosses in prison are still bent on finding them and killing them. De Niro's family got moved by the program to a new place in Normandy, France. Obviously it's a big drastic change from Brooklyn NY to France, so that in and of itself is already enough to let you know that hilarity that comes out of the difficulties of adjusting to a new place will ensue, including the bullish*t story that they have to come up with to explain where they're from or who they are to the new neighbors. Now.. unlike other gangster comedies, kinda like the ones that Guy Ritchie made, THE FAMILY does not show dumb bumbling criminals, the comedy in THE FAMILY banks on the short fuse and the temper that this Brooklyn family has, the violence exists because the reasons behind it are petty and that makes it funny. They try so hard to fit in and but because the new culture that they're in is extremely different, to a certain point it even looks down on them, they can't help but to unleash their old tough selves
Robert De Niro is a legend, we all know that, he makes things look so easy. He's played gangster or mobster roles countless times before, he's even done it for comedy, anybody remember Analyze This?! So THE FAMILY is a walk in the park for him, he could probably do this blindfolded, but of course, he doesn't take it too lightly especially when sparring with other greats like Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones, whenever those three interact on screen, it's like the camera just wants more and more of them even when their lines are done and over. De Niro's character is a good father, with a terrible past, but is a good father to his kids, and it's killing him that he can't tell his story to the world. Pretending to be someone he's not, suffocates him. He starts writing his own memoir, which is discouraged by his handler, played by Tommy Lee Jones, but it's clear to see that all De Niro's character wants is some kind of appreciation, that despite the terrible things he's done, he's still a good man. Note the many use of the word F*CK that De Niro uses to express all kinds of range of emotions, it's definitely one of this movie's highlights. De Niro and Tommy's friendship relationship in this movie is a complicated one, you can tell that Tommy cares for De Niro and his family but at the same time there's duty that he has to uphold and strict protocol that must be followed by all involved if De Niro's family wants to survive. The kids, played by D'Leo and Agaron, face ordinary things that teenagers face, sexual tension, trying to fit in and figuring out how to be resourceful, there's also the matter of good ol' heartbreak, so this movie has a nice dose of family drama that doesn't beat around the bush, the pacing is just right. You can tell that they're aching, they're not enjoying life in hiding, they wish they could run away, but deep down they're not blaming each other because in a strange way, that lifestyle has brought them closer together.
Another thing I love about THE FAMILY is that you get it or you understand why these characters stay together; why these people love each other, why Michelle's character and De Niro's character ever matched, and even their kids, played by D'Leo and Agron, display their parents traits; their take-no-bullish*t attitudes. They're physical, they're cunning, they won't hesitate to use a bat or a hammer to prove a point, they're easily offended, and all of that equals hilarious. Inflicting pain, gangster-style, is always hard to watch mainly because in gangster world, there are no limits as to what you can use to inflict pain, you improvise, the creativity is boundless, so the shock value is always there, director Luc Besson doesn't shy away but at the same time he never means for this movie to be straight up Scorsese, who by the way helped exec-produce THE FAMILY, this movie at its center wants to show you a dysfunctional family, a family who we would quickly judge, but they're a family nonetheless.