WHO’S IN IT?
Robert De Niro (Raging Bull), Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns), Tommy Lee Jones (No Country For Old Men), Dianna Agron (Glee), John D’Leo (Wanderlust), Jimmy Palumbo (Margin Call), Domenick Lombardozzi (Boardwalk Empire), Stan Carp (Little Children), Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos), Jon Freda (Broadway’s Finest), Michael J. Panichelli Jr. (The Ritual)
WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?
Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional), director, writer, producer; Michael Caleo (The Last Time), writer; Ryan Kavanaugh (The Fighter) and Virginie Silla (From Paris With Love), producers; Evgueni and Sacha Galperine (The Big Picture), composers; Thierry Arbogast (The Fifth Element), cinematographer; Julien Ray (The Lady), editor
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
After a failed mob hit results on him snitching out the most wanted criminals in the Mafia, gangster Fred Manzoni (De Niro) is forced to locate to a small, quiet town in France as part of the witness protection program, with his uncooperative family – wife Maggie (Pfeiffer), daughter Belle (Agron) and son Warren (D’Leo) – in tow. Despite FBI Agent Stansfield’s (Jones) best efforts to keep them safe, a group of vengeful mafia goons track them down – but then again, that might be down to the family causing havoc and dealing with their problems in the only violent ways they know how…
WHY SHOULD YOU BE EXCITED?
From the outset, The Family looks like your average high-concept black comedy with A-list stars in a reasonably priced location. In some respect, you may be right, but the crucial element this time round is the inclusion of the director of The Fifth Element.
To call Luc Besson, here marking his first directing gig since 2011’s The Lady, a visionary director is an understatement. The man behind other hits such as Leon: The Professional and Nikita is known for his extravagant eye for visuals and occasionally kooky stability – The Fifth Element being a prime example, mixing interesting imagery with Gilliam-esque sets and designs (as well as a screeching Chris Tucker in a dress for God knows what reason). While we won’t be treated to such explicit visuals here, we definitely see his tastes for comedy shine through with the right amount of pathos and humour to get the audience through.
Heading the cast is Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, sharing the screen for the first time in their careers (contrary to popular opinion, they did not share any scenes in neither Stardust nor New Year’s Eve). De Niro’s current line of work seems to be hit and miss – for every Silver Linings Playbook, there’s an equivalent to The Big Wedding – while Pfeiffer’s profile hasn’t been as active over the more recent years (save for last year’s appearances in Tim Burton’s disappointing Dark Shadows and human drama People Like Us). However, both seem to be on top comedic form here and form a rousing chemistry with each other as the husband and wife in a mafia family. Also look out for Tommy Lee Jones and Glee’s Dianna Agron in big supporting roles, as an FBI agent and their daughter respectively.
The Family might not seem like a typical Luc Besson production, certainly smaller scale than what we’re used to, but it still seems like a good laugh with good comedic performances by De Niro and Pfeiffer and a good grasp of direction by Besson. Notice how we keep using the word “good” to describe these aspects; while we cannot know for certain, it’s likely that The Family will probably not exceed that description. And, in all honesty, that’s good enough.