Everybody loves a good mob movie, right? And Robert De Niro has been at the center of the best of them. Goodfellas and Casino are both outstanding films so I was looking forward to see what De Niro would have in store for us in his latest mob-centric flick, The Family.
DeNiro plays Fred Blake (aka mob boss Giovanni Manzoni) and is joined by Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife Maggie along with Dianna Agron and John D’Leo as their teenage children Belle and Warren.
We join the Manzoni / Blake’s as they are roughly six years in to the witness relocation program, living in France and being sent to yet another new home. It becomes clear that this clan can never stay in any place long before one of them commits some form of mobster justice to anyone that may have wronged them.
The Family is set up mostly as a dark comedy but the tone is uneven as the story shifts between the kids adjusting to a new school and the parents a new town. Toss Tommy Lee Jones into the mix as the FBI agent in charge of keeping the Manzoni / Blake family safe and we are left with a story that moves from teenage love, Belle falling for and seducing her young math teacher, to young gangster-in-training as Warren quickly runs rackets all over the school to plodding dark comedy as Fred and Maggie rough up any locals that slight them.
The second act of the film is just slow and teeters on boring. There are attempts at humor but it’s mostly flat. It's a welcome relief when the third act finally kicks in as the mob finally find the Manzoni’s and set out to whack them. Director Luc Besson has a good track record, The Fifth Element and The Professional were two great movies in the mid 90's but he has misfired with The Family. Despite decent enough performances from everyone in the cast, the movie just never finds its stride and is average at best.
-Review by Brian Rohe