“You know what’s going to happen to you and your family if they find you?” asks Agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones). “You’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen, right,” replies Giovanni Manzoni aka Fred Blake (Robert De Niro) who’s now entered the witness protection with his family after informing on the mafia in the action comedy The Family.
The Manzoni family, now known as the Blakes, have been relocated to Normandy, France and have been instructed to blend into society and not draw attention to themselves. This becomes difficult when Fred, his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), and their kids – Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo) – revert back to old habits and start handling their problems at school and in the town the ‘Family’ way. It’s not long before the mob boss who has never stopped looking for them (even from prison) gets a new lead and sends a hit squad to Normandy to find and execute the Blakes with extreme prejudice.
With a few laugh-out-loud moments and over-the-top violence, The Family is an uneven dark comedy which benefits from its A-list cast. Robert De Niro is perfectly cast as Blake, an ex-mob captain who partially regrets his informing on his mafia friends and desperately misses the mob life. He also yearns for attention and seeks a new cause to fight for, even if it’s only getting clear water to come out of his faucet instead of brown water. He plays the role with just the right amount of menace and humor.
Michelle Pfeiffer is great as Maggie the ex-mob wife who struggles to keep her family together but still can’t resist the urge to go back to her tough, threatening ways whenever mocked or challenged by a neighbor or shop owner. Tommy Lee Jones is perfect as Agent Stansfield whose job it is to keep the Blakes safe even though he can’t stand Fred and looks forward to the day he can kick the Manzoni family out of witness protection for the slightest violation. He and De Niro have solid chemistry and some of the best scenes are with these two titans of film.
The editing and pacing are perhaps the weakest elements of the film as The Family drags in the middle and the laughs disappear almost completely. The tone of the film is also an issue with the violence in the early part of the film being played out for laughs, but near the end of the film when the hitmen reach Normandy it becomes excessive and disturbing.
With a strong cast but having an uneven and slow rhythm to its pacing, The Family is a dark comedy audiences might want to wait for on Blu-ray or DVD. But if you plan on checking it out in theaters, be sure to only catch it at the matinee price. Otherwise, you’re grossly overpaying.
The Family opens in theaters on Friday, September 13, 2013 and is rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality.
– By Kevin Finnerty
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