Robert De Niro on Form…

by Ed Blackadder

Director Luc Besson, the man behind some true cinema classics, La Femme Nikita, Léon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, all made during the 90’s, brings together Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones and Robert De Niro, in this black comedy about a family in the Witness Protection Programme. De Niro hasn’t had a role like this in a while, yet playing mob men is his specialty, and is unquestionably one of the finest actors at doing these types of character. It’s simply a matter of double Oscar winner De Niro, tapping into some of his old creations from the likes of The Godfather (my all-time fav), Goodfellas (another fav), or Analyze This. He slips into these roles with absolute ease and is always extremely convincing, and while certain of his attempts at comedy have been less than successful, when combined in The Family, playing ex-mobster Giovanni Manzoni, renamed Frank Blake, admittedly a darker humor, works remarkably well.

The Family
Directed by
Luc Besson
Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron
Release Date
13 Sept 2013
Ed’s Grade: B+

The well maintained, triple Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer, is no stranger to gangster movies herself, with lead female roles in the brilliant Scarface and the amusing Married to the Mob, also tapping into one of her old characters to play Maggie Blake. The Blake kids, Belle and Warren, are played by the stunning Dianna Agron (Burlesque) and John D’Leo. Craggy Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones is CIA man, Agent Stansfield, who has a tricky job trying to find the family a suitable location to place the sought after ‘almost’ ex-hoodlums. Completing the cast are some recognisable faces from a number of well known gangster fare, like Vincent Pastore (Goodfellas).

The Manzoni family have been hiding on the French Riviera under Witness Protection, but after their messing up again, they move to another small town, by driving there with a rotting corpse in the trunk, known only to “Fred.” They haven’t moved there long before they revert to their old way of life, extortion and extreme violence, with violence, a particular skill Belle Blake (Dianna Agron) has inherited from her father, and puts to very good use. Frank is trying his best, even trying his hand at being an author, but after a plumber attempts to con the ex-mobster, the workman gets his leg and arm broken multiple times. The kids don’t fare any better, and wife Maggie blows up a store (see attached trailer). There was a great scene involving Maggie and the priest she gave confession to earlier, as he warns her to stay away, because he now can’t get the images of she and her family out of his head.

At school, 14 year-old Warren begins to hustle, and after taking a beating, gets some payback by recruiting back-up, using all the usual wiseguy techniques. 17 year-old Belle has a crush on a student teacher, and also knocks around a few classmates who make the mistake of trying to use her, in any way, shape or form, because, being a chip-off-the-old-block, like her father, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. After some inventive ‘F’ word usage and much skullduggery, the final scenes are noisy, violent and exciting, as the group are inevitably involved in a shootout that sees body after body blown away, being the sort of thing helmsman Besson does very well indeed.