IN ITS own way, Robert de Niro’s latest film throws down a gauntlet. After Analyse That and the third Meet The Parents it was hard to imagine him selling out his best work for anything worse.
The Family (15)
Star rating: * *
Luc Besson’s The Family is that something worse, a mafia comedy that shoots for laughs but mostly ends up firing blanks.
Trading on muscle memory, with deliberate steals from Casino, Goodfellas and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Married To The Mob, Besson has confected a careless set-up where De Niro’s wise guy is in a witness protection programme that has him spirited out of New York with his wife (Pfeiffer) and two kids (John D’Leo and Glee’s Dianna Agron) and relocated to a twee village in Normandy. They are instructed to lead quiet, blameless lives but the boxes aren’t even fully unpacked before the sociopathic family have proceeded to terrorise, deceive and slaughter the locals, without raising any interest from the local police, or alerting their FBI handler (Tommy Lee Jones).
There is one highlight, a scene where De Niro is invited to discuss Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running with the local film club (all of them fluent in colloquial English apparently), but when the wrong film arrives, he is diverted into an enthusiastic dissertation on Goodfellas instead. Luc Besson productions, such as The Transporter and Taken, have often flirted with cheerful consequence-free violence, but when he’s trying to wring laughs from ugly beatings, his comic touch feels like being tickled by a Transformer. n
On general release from Friday