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The Family (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 111 minutes

Not for children.

Hollywood has generally been good to The Mob, picturing them either as cartoon characters or sympathetic men of honor (The Godfather trilogy). Hollywood even has created made-Mafia men movie stars (Michael Squicciarini of The Sopranos).

But the mafia is not a joke and its members have nothing to do with cartoons. While this film is entertaining and humorous and rewarding, it is filled with violence and the violence is generally made appealing because the stars are doing it, often in a comedic way.

Robert De Niro is a Mafioso who has turned government witness so is a target for Mafia hitmen. He is in the witness protection program along with his wife, Michelle Pfieffer, daughter Dianna Agron, and son John DíLeo, living in Normandy in France, where it was filmed, overseen by federal agent Tommy Lee Jones.

What this film really has going for it, other than the outstanding cast and location, is its director, Luc Besson (who has a co-writing credit on the light-hearted, funny script with Michael Caleo), who was responsible for the brilliant Liam Neeson surprise runaway hit, Taken (2008). Besson continues his magic here as he knows how to set up rewarding scenes in which bad guys get their comeuppance, and there are a lot of those scenes here, made easier since everyone in the film in a bad guy, including the good guys, except the federal agents.

De Niro has become an accomplished comedic actor (Analyze This and Analyze That), but he has also participated in some deplorable films, like The Focker trilogy that only produced one funny film. Here heís got a good script, a good cast, and does a good job.

Pfieffer is still gorgeous and can still give a terrific performance as she does here, but the people who really stand out are the two children. Agron gives the best performance in the film as a really sexy teenager coming of sexual age and DíLeo is convincing as a manipulative chip off the old block.

The violence is the only thing that turned me off because it is sometimes graphic and profuse. Worse, itís played for laughs and rewarding revenge. An innocent man getting his leg broken in many places by a baseball bat is not funny, no matter how De Niro and Besson play it. My female companion cringed often throughout the movie when the violence became too graphic.

But De Niro is playing a psychopath, and he does it well, even if he does play it sympathetically.

This is an enjoyable film providing needed escapist entertainment.

September 12, 2013