When you’re hungry, even hamburger can taste like filet mignon.
“The Family” is by no means a great film, but with the recent dearth of gangster movies, it provides a very refreshing satisfaction to gangster film fans like myself. I’ve sorely missed seeing wise guys wearing tracksuits while grilling some nice fat sausages. I’ve yearned for tough guys greeting each other by kissing both cheeks. I’ve longed for the cold, brutal violence that only a ruthless mafia hit man could deliver. My ears have needed to hear the thick Brooklyn accents. Thankfully, “The Family” delivers on all counts.
And it’s okay that “The Family” isn’t even a traditional gangster film. It’s actually a dark comedy set in the mafia world with all of the pertinent elements still there. In fact, its story of an American mob family hiding out in France as part of a witness protection program provides many opportunities for fish-out-of-water type laughs. Why are they in France? Because the film is directed by Luc Besson, and almost all of his films seem to take place there.
Robert De Niro heads the Manzoni family as Giovanni Manzoni, the snitch now on the run. With him are his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), and his two children Belle (Dianna Agron) and John D’Leo (Warren). They may be new in town, but they waste no time acclimating and taking control. It’s like an updated version of the Steve Martin comedy, “My Blue Heaven.”
With his extensive experience playing wise guys, De Niro could play the role of Giovanni Manzoni in his sleep, but there’s definitely a sparkle in his eye as it’s clear he’s having fun returning to a familiar genre. Pfeiffer seems to become even more exquisite with each passing year, and her performance as a tough, yet loving, mob wife is dead on. Agron and D’Leo also provide some surprising moments as the children who make their mark in school. The only one who doesn’t seem to be having any fun is Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the family’s CIA liaison. But does he ever seem to be having a good time?
“The Family” has lots of energy and laughs, concluding with a stylishly violent shootout in the typical Besson fashion. While it won’t be winning awards, it definitely scratched that itch, leaving me smiling with satisfaction. Gangster film fans will be as happy as when they ate their last cannoli.
“The Family,” 110 minutes, is Rated R and opens in theaters today.