The Family **½ (R) There’s a lot to like about this rather gruesome action comedy, even if the whole package falls a bit short on laughs and energy. Robert DeNiro plays an old Mafioso who has been hiding around Europe under federal protection (headed by veteran stone-faced law dude, Tommy Lee Jones), ducking the $20M contract placed on his head by former colleagues whose careers in crime were ended by his testimony. His wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter (Dianna Agron, best known as Quinn on Glee) and son (John D’Leo) wind up having to relocate with him every 90 days, or so, whenever aspiring hit men crack their latest cover IDs.
After a brief prolog, we meet our quartet of Brooklyn transplants trying to assimilate into a small village in Normandy. Part of their difficulty in staying under the radar comes from DeNiro’s easily-triggered rage. But the other three were shaped by the same environmental factors, leaving each with full, and largely amusing, arsenals of gangsterland reflexes and resources. You can take the family out of the Mob, but you can’t ...
Writer/director Luc Besson is no stranger to light-hearted, fast-paced crime fare, as proven by his trio of Transporter flicks, or variations in tone from the fantasy Angel-A, to protagonist assassins (La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional). We root for this family despite their periodic outbursts or machinations of malice. DeNiro’s graybearded patriarch has reached a contemplative stage of life, musing over the pros and cons of his character and track record. The script gives D’Leo a bigger share of the highlights than one might expect, considering the higher profiles of his co-stars.
Despite the talents of the cast and a number of enjoyable moments, the screenplay includes too many dry stretches for comedic momentum. Perhaps it tries to cover too much emotional and cultural territory, creating an awkward imbalance between reality and escapism. The inevitable friction between French locals and American newcomers works for a while, but fails to support the main action - especially the climactic sequence. Pretty good overall; but it couldda been a contendah. (9/13/13)