Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Family

After mixed success in the low-rent action genre, writer/director Luc Besson turned his attention to dark comedy with 2013's The Family. The results of an American mobster (Robert De Niro) and his family (Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D'Leo) in Witness Protection in small town in Normandy, France, is actually better than some of Besson's other recent efforts (such as Taken 2).

Centered mostly on the family's inability to adapt to new surroundings yet again after being forced to relocate by the FBI agent (Tommy Lee Jones) in charge of their safety we see several instances of "The Blakes" using violence, intimidation, and even explosives to get what they want.

De Niro has fun with the mobster's selfish actions involving attacking both a plummer and the head of a local chemical plant polluting the water supply while working on memoirs no one in the FBI ever wants to see the light of day. He even agrees to speak at a local film debate where his real personal experience comes in very handy.

I was less interested in the machinations of Fred's son (D'Leo) taking control of the school than Agron's subplot teaching some of her male classmates to respect women (by breaking a tennis racket over one of their skulls) and falling for an older college student doing some work at her school. She is also given the opportunity to kick some serious ass when a mob hit squad shows in town after discovering their location (through a series of coincidences that don't so much shake the script's credibility but shatter it into a million pieces).

Given the mixed reaction both by critics and audiences it has taken me some time to seek out The Family but I'm glad I did. It's not a great movie by any means, but if you keep your expectations low Besson's black comedy is actually a pleasant surprise that offers strong performances from both De Niro and Agron and several over-the-top moments that you'll likely enjoy more than you should. Neither the DVD nor Blu-ray offer much in the way of extras other than a short behind-the-scenes feature, trailer, and an F-bomb montage.

[20th Century Fox, DVD $19.98 / Blu-ray $24.99]

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