Robert De Niro hasn’t just made a career playing gangsters or even criminals for that matter. It’s just that he’s so very good at it and some of his most memorable roles come as these characters. De Niro takes that screen persona and promptly tosses it on its head, as seen in The Family trailer -- the latest from French director Luc Besson.
De Niro is Fred Blake -- well, that’s his Witness Protection Program name. He is really Giovanni Manzoni, a former crime boss from Brooklyn who is living in France with his wife and two kids after being forced to rat out his business associates who were about to make him and his kin disappear.
As The Family begins, De Niro, his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer, once again… Married to the Mob!), daughter (Glee star Dianna Agron) and son (a mini-me De Niro John D'Leo) have been removed from their “protected” confines in the South of France and are driving to a quaint little community in Normandy.
Seems they couldn’t keep their old habits on the down low and it’s not quite clear, but someone -- and given what we learn about each member of this family -- acted out in not the nicest of ways. Judging by this The Family clip, Agron doesn’t fall far from her father’s tree when it comes to confrontation.
They are “handled” by a U.S. Marshall team headed by Tommy Lee Jones, who does his best to have the family act “normal” and assimilate as best they can so frankly, they can live another day.
The Family is not quite a pure mob family on the run film. It’s not exactly a noir French crime film either. But it meets in the middle of those two in the most delightful of ways with Besson writing and directing. We adore his work, from The Professional to The Fifth Element,, and after years of producing, it is an utter treat to see him wielding his camera and telling his most unique of stories.
And his cast is up for the task in the most astounding of ways. De Niro is not only unlike any mob character he’s played before, the actor plays the former gangster unlike any character he’s played before.
It’s astonishing to watch him in his frumpy robe, unshaven, unhappy and simply yearning for moments to whip out his typewriter and try with his less than stellar prose to tell his “memoirs.” Of course, if those memoirs were published, he could be killed. But then again, turning in evidence on known gangsters has already put him in that perilous position… what does he have to lose?
And Pfeiffer is an utter delight. She is no wallflower and it is clear that she too is no angel in Besson’s The Family. Other than the angelic patience that Jones’ character has with his charges, not one soul is completely redeemable in this tale. And that is exactly how a French written, directed and location-centered film of this sort starring De Niro making light of his cinematic mob persona should be.
Our The Family review finds this film simple to sum up: Score this one a direct hit… right between the eyes.