The Family (15) - film review

 

The Family is a fascinating but ultimately very unsatisfactory hybrid – a Goodfellas-style comedy gangster movie set in Normandy. In one of its strangest, most self-reflexive scenes, we actually see Robert De Niro's character watching Goodfellas at the local town hall. He is a mobster boss turned supergrass.

Now in the witness-protection programme, he has come to France with his family to – try to – live in rustic anonymity. The humour is largely based on the clash between cultures. Characters we'd expect to see in a film by Scorsese have somehow been cast adrift in the land of Calvados and Camembert. Besson has little flair for comedy. There are disconcerting shifts in tone here in which scenes start as goofy farce and end with characters being beaten to a pulp. Gloopy sentimentality ("you are the best dad anybody could ask for") sits side by side with extreme violence. De Niro, though, is intriguing in a role which allows him to evoke memories of his great films with Scorsese while also indulging in the comic schtick we've come to expect from him in films such as Meet the Parents.

Luc Besson, 111 minutes Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones

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