The Family hails from Nikita and Léon writer, director and producer extraordinaire Luc Besson. But, while it’s decently made and contains an assortment of stout performances from a host of competent actors, it never reaches the heights it so ambitiously aims for, and will undoubtedly leave a sense of utter – and entirely valid – amazement as to how it’s possible for so much to go so drastically wrong when so many talented individuals are involved lingering in the air long after the end credits roll.
Relocated to a sleepy French town after snitching on a big time mobster, Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) attempts to lead a normal lifestyle with his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their two children Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo). But when old habits start to re-emerge, much to the annoyance of Giovanni’s disgruntled handler Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones), their cover is quickly blown, drawing the attention of several merciless killers who’re out for revenge.
Films don’t come much lazier than this tired effort. From the monotonous narrative to the absurd contrivances that follow over the course of the taxing run time, The Family is a head-to-toe mess. Besson, who has made some truly terrific films in the past, shows no sign of curving the recent downward trend his career has experienced (The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec to that), and his script with Michael Caleo reeks of a poor premise that’s been fleshed out by whatever cliché could be thought of first.
There’s little sense of direction on display either. The film never really knows what it wants to be. It’s too violent to hit the comedy notes it tries to strike thanks to the valiant efforts of its enthusiastic and able cast (Pfeiffer hasn’t been on such good form in years, and it’s a shame to see Argon so wasted with a sub-plot that fails to go anywhere), but it’s never hard or serious enough to be a straight-up gangster film. The finished product, therefore, is patchy and tonally awkward, with nothing except the performances and the repartee between the characters.
It’s a relief, then, that the cast are so on their toes and willing to go that extra mile in an attempt to make up for all the other areas the film is lacking in . As previously mentioned, Pfeiffer and Argon are good, if left with very little to do, while De Niro is constantly watchable. Jones heads up the supporting cast with a wonderfully dry turn as the CIA agent left to clear up Manzoni’s persistent mess. Their efforts sustain the film here and there, but there’s always a ridiculous plot point around, and they weigh the film so down that it becomes such an unworthy and risible non-event.