MRR Review: "The Family"

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The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging as their old habits die hard.
3.5

MRR Review: "The Family"

Rating: R (for sexual content, language)
Length: 111 min
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2013
Directed By: Luc Besson
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime

"The Family" is a 2013 film that uses dark comedy to tell the story of a former mafia family that goes into hiding through the witness protection program. The Manzoni family is headed by Giovanni, an old-school mafioso who rules his families, both domestic and criminal, with an iron fist and a cool head. Giovanni and his wife, Maggie, are the proud parents of two tough teenagers named Belle and Warren. When Giovanni turns on his mafia cronies, the entire family is forced to abandon their mob lives and head for safer territory.

CIA Agent Stansfield finds himself charged with the unenviable task of keeping the Manzoni clan safe and under the radar, transporting them from one failed new start to another. Eventually, the Manzonis use up all their good will in the United States and are forced to relocate to a small, slow-paced town in Normandy, France. Normandy is about as faras possiblefrom the glamorous, fast-paced world the Manzonis have known, so it takes more than new aliases to get them settled in. Agent Stansfield warns the family that this may be their last chance, so they try their best to conform to the way of life in their new hometown. Good intentions falter as each member of the family is tempted to respond to new challenges with mafia problem-solving tactics, leading to numerous hilarious but disastrous encounters.

From Maggie's unpleasant encounter with a grocery store clerk leading to arson, to Belle's hands-on approach to teaching a fresh classmate a lesson on how to talk to women, the Manzonis don't quite fit in with their new neighbors. Unfortunately, their antics are so over-the-top that they attract the attention of Giovanni's former mafia buddies, luring the American mob across the ocean to settle the score. The peaceful little town of Normandy may or may not survive the Manzoni family, and time will tell whether the new and improved Blake family has what it takes to change their old ways and start fresh.

"The Family" benefits from a star-studded cast, including Robert De Niro as Giovanni Manzoni. Giovanni is surprisingly the member of the Manzoni clan who is most likely to succeed in his new life, thanks to his generally even temper. Motivated by guilt for causing his family so much chaos, Giovanni makes a valiant effort to be Fred Blake. His wife, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer, is somewhat less inclined to change. Maggie has an explosive temper that leads her to start fires, both literally and figuratively, whenever she becomes involved in a conflict. The kids, portrayed by Dianna Agron and John D'Leo, take after their infamous parents in their problem solving styles, getting into their fair share of fights in and out of school. Rounding out the cast is the legendary Tommy Lee Jones, who portrays CIA Agent Stansfield. Stansfield is a cool-headed agent who has seen his share of chaos, but the Manzoni clan might just prove to be the final straw for him. His interactions with each member of the Manzoni family lead to some hilarious moments and more than a few dry-witted exchanges.

"The Family" takes family comedy to a whole new level, blending elements of the gangster, drama, and action genres. The Manzoni family politics are well-portrayed and create a fascinating backdrop for the rest of the film, making the characters' actions and circumstances both believable and suspenseful. Director Luc Besson's dry wit shows through in this film, helping it straddle the line between mobster drama and dark comedy. The film is uproariously hilarious in parts, yet serious and tense when it needs to be, creating a unique viewing experience. The fact that the Manzoni clan is so flawed yet lovable makes the action sequences and suspenseful elements all the more engaging.

The soundtrack for "The Family" creates a dark, yet slightly irreverent, atmosphere that helps pull together the film's many eclectic influences. Even the cinematography succeeds in portraying the world through the slightly different lens of the Manzoni family, keeping you engaged throughout the film. From fiery explosions to quieter moments of family bonding, "The Family" has the heart of a quirky independent comedy and the appearance of a major blockbuster film. Fans of such over-the-top action sagas as "Kill Bill" will undoubtedly enjoy this masterpiece. "The Family" offers a truly unique twist on the classic gangster movie genre, featuring endearing characters, a stunning soundtrack, and zany action that will keep you guessing from one scene to another.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5