The Family

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Mafia boss Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro), who has somehow offended Don Luchese (Stan Carp), a rival mafia boss, survives an attempted hit on him and his family at a barbecue. After he snitches on Luchese (sending him to prison, where his influence allows him to live well), Manzoni and his family enter an FBI witness protection program under the supervision of Agent Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones). After the family’s criminal activities alert the kingpin to their new location, they are relocated to a small town in Normandy, France.

Adjusting to life in the village, each family member runs into trouble. Giovanni is being observed by two FBI agents across the street in a safe-house to ensure he doesn’t leave his house. Giovanni claims to be an author writing a historical novel on the Normandy landings, which is problematic as many citizens in the area are much more familiar with the event than he is. Giovanni finds ways to slip away and begins a quest to discover why the water in his house is brown, becoming irritated when no one he talks to will take responsibility. He savagely beats both a plumber who tries to shake him down and a local fertilizer factory owner who interrupts him while he is talking.

Virginal daughter Belle (Dianna Agron) falls in love with a college student who is working as a substitute math teacher. She pretends to need math lessons in order to start a relationship with him, which he rebuffs, but she eventually seduces him. Wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) blows up a small grocery store when its owner spews stereotypical anti-American comments. She spends a lot of time at a church, where she and the local priest have an amicable relationship. This ends when she confesses the numerous crimes her family has committed and he tells her never to come back.

On the first day of class at the local school, son Warren (John D’Leo) is beaten up by a small gang, but he digs up information and uses it to curry favor with the most influential students, creating a mini-mafia within the school. This sway allows him to beat up the gang. Later he inadvertently alerts Don Luchese to their location when he quotes one of the kingpin’s sayings in a school paper, as an assignment, that makes its way back to Luchese through a series of chance events.

Giovanni is asked to attend an American film event due to his supposed historical expertise; he brings Agent Stansfield along, claiming to want to bond with him, but in reality it’s an alibi for a timed explosive he has rigged to destroy the structure causing his brown water. The film screening takes an unexpected turn when instead of Some Came Running, the scheduled film, they watch Goodfellas. Throughout the film, Giovanni expresses a desire to talk about his life as a mobster (seemingly expressing some guilt, though he always claims this is untrue), and the debate after the film prompts him to tell his story to the audience. Feeling his cover has been compromised, Agent Stansfield gives an order to relocate the family again.

Meanwhile, Warren decides to leave town with fake passports after the school detects his activities, afraid that the FBI will drop the family’s protection, but he returns to his family’s house after he sees a team of seven hitmen arriving on the train he was about to board. Belle decides to commit suicide after the college student rejects her, for family issues, but stops when she sees the hitmen entering the police station, where they kill several officers. As Giovanni returns home, Maggie arrives outside and notices the team of hitmen, who have already killed firemen and who proceed to kill their neighbors. She takes cover in the FBI safe-house across the street.

The hitmen blow up the family’s house, and soon an intense gunfight ensues which involves all family members. Giovanni and Maggie strangle and stab a hitman after he raids the safe-house, killing the two FBI agents, and tries to sexually abuse Maggie. Belle kills a hitman who went to look for new weapons in his car’s trunk. Belle, using weapons found in the trunk shoots one of the five hitmen near the burning house. Warren shoots two of the hitmen while being given cover fire by Belle. One hitman is killed by the family dog, which he was preparing to shoot. While chasing Belle, the lead hitman is killed by Stansfield’s car.

The family relocates again. Giovanni expresses his happiness at having had the chance to tell his story, saying that it brought the members of his family closer.

REVIEW:

When was the last time we saw Robert De Niro in a film involving the Mafia? What about one involving witness protection? The Family brings us a film that is supposed to deliver action and comedy, as well as some well-developed characters. Is it worth the time and energy, though?

What is this about?

The Manzonis, an infamous mob family, are relocated to Normandy, France, by the witness protection program, where they have some difficulty fitting in. When local problems arise, they respond the only way they know how: mafia style.

What did I like?

Camaraderie. Robert De Niro’s character is a gangster, a Mafia don, if I’m not mistaken. Tommy Lee Jones is a FBI agent in charge of keeping De Niro and his family safe. So, a gangster and a FBI agent, eh? You would think they’d be threatening each other, but that isn’t the case. As a matter of fact, they have a friendship that is something that comes off as endearing. You don’t normally see a FBI agent having a friendship with his protectee, so it was something nice to see.

The family that kills together. I guess living with a gangster boss changes a person. Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays De Niro’s wife, and the kids all have actions that reflect the fact that they have had to live a life where they have to keep on their toes and not take any stuff from anyone, even if it means blowing up a store, beating up a girl who stole your pencil case, etc. Call me sadistic, if you want, but I loved that they were borderline psychopaths and was wanting more.

Glee-ful performance. Dianna Agron, you know her best from Glee, actually gives the best performance of the film. Her character is the typical teenage girl, but a bit more mature than what we normally see in film and television. First off, she doesn’t disrespect her parents, have a bad attitude, etc. Second, the love story and heartbreak she suffers is where she really shines as an actress. We also can’t forget the gun-toting chick she becomes in the last scenes (while wearing an immaculately clean white dress, mind you).

What didn’t I like?

Pflirty Pfeiffer. Michelle Pfeiffer, in her advanced age, still thinks she’s as hot as she was when was wearing that Catwoman suit in Batman Returns, but that isn’t the case. Personally, I don’t think she has ever been that attractive, but that’s just me. However, if I was a FBI agent assigned to constant surveillance like the two FBI guys who were across the street, I’m sure I’d be looking at her through rose-colored glasses. I didn’t particularly care for her semi-flirting with the agents. It isn’t the fact that she was being nice to them, but the fact that it felt that the filmmakers wanted to have her do something more with the guys besides bring them food and hang out.

Pick and choose. For a film that is advertised as an action comedy, there sure is a lack of action and comedy. The only action we get is in the climactic shootout with the Mafia hitmen that come into town, hardly enough to be used as a way to define the genre. I give the comedy a little more leeway because there are a few funny scenes that make you chuckle but, again, hardly enough to define the film’s genre. To me, this comes off as more of a dramedy. I think if this film would have amped up the action and the comedy, it would have actually been 1000X better, though.

Career nod. Robert De Niro has been in a few films in his time. At a point in this film, his character is asked to speak at some kind of American film screening where they show Goodfellas. I appreciate the nod to one of, if not the best De Niro gangster film, but the whole scene just felt like a convenient way to get him away from the rest of his family and set up the film’s climax. Is there anything wrong with that? No, but it speaks to the audience that they didn’t really know what they wanted to do and put this in there to fill some space.

What can I say about The Family? Not much really. This is a film that has good and bad points that cancel each other out making this film, which has such promise, nothing more than an average flick. With major stars like Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer and up and comer Dianna Agron, one would imagine this should have been a better flick, but it wasn’t. Do I recommend this film? Not really. I’m sure this will show up on TBS or Comedy Central one afternoon in the next couple of years. That is when you should watch this, if you must.

3 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “The Family”

  1. Tally Atwater's Tresses Says:

    Your comments on Michelle Pfeifer and her advanced state of ageing in The Family really struck a chord with me. Another review I read said that “She (Pfeiffer) was pretty once and insolent toward pushy guys. Nowadays, she ought to be called Maud or Magda.Michelle is a dog that don’t hunt.”
    As a fan of Pfeiffer I thought that sounded harsh, but then I watched the movie and quietly and somewhat ashamedly admitted to myself that she does look rather tired.
    Great review!

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