Considering the talent involved, you’d be forgiven for thinking that The Family (2013) would make for a couple of hours of passable entertainment. Sadly, this new crime thriller (with supposed comedic twists) – starring Bobby De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones, written and directed by Frenchman Luc Besson and produced by Martin Scorsese (we know) – falls way short of expectations. For their own protection New York Mafia linchpin Fred Blake (De Niro) and his wife Maggie (Pfeiffer) – along with their children Warren (John D’Leo) and Belle (Dianna Agron) – are sent to live out their lives in a sleepy French town under a witness protection programme.
However, any hope that the family would blend unnoticed into the background are dashed when their violent mob tendencies come to the fore with chaotic consequences for all. It’s almost a given that a film involving Scorsese and De Niro is going to involve mayhem and carnage to some degree. Indeed you’d feel short changed if there wasn’t a smattering of beatings, stabbings and shootings in any film by two men who have built successful Hollywood careers around maiming, mayhem and pugnacity. This said, it doesn’t sit right in Besson’s flailing The Family. Much of the violence here seems so out of place, and is sprung on the viewer so suddenly, that it jars more than usual due to it sudden unexpectedness.
Take for instance when Warren and Belle reek revenge on various kids who make their lives a misery at their new school. Or Maggie’s fiery retribution on some local people she feels are slighting her as a foreigner in their town. The bloodshed which ensues on all accounts is so unnecessarily gratuitous that the viewer can’t help but feel nauseated. The three main cast members – De Niro, Pfeiffer and Jones (as the officer in charge of the witness programme) – all give passable performances, as you’d expect from actors of their calibre. The overall question which the film raises though is why you’d want to spend one hundred and eleven minutes of your time watching it.
The narrative ‘twist’ of making Maggie and the children as violent and slick at killing as Fred, is promising – none of the usual innocent, unsuspecting family members here. However, despite Maggie’s underlying ruthlessness and her kid’s impressive dexterity with firearms, the feeling one is left with overall is why this should rate as entertainment? A picture postcard setting and some mildly amusing incidents aside, as a film Besson’s The Family – like the characters it depicts – is something you’d do well to steer clear of.