Film Title: The Family
Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones
Running Time: 111 min
If I were Robert De Niro, I too might want to hide my sorry face in some remote corner of Western Europe. The years drag by and the films just get worse and worse. The great man could hardly have engineered a less dignified passage into old age if he’d taken to playing the geek in a travelling carnival.
De Niro’s latest terrible film hangs a round a set-up more suited to a light situation comedy (indeed, it is the set up to John Sullivan’s ill-remembered TV series The Green Green Grass). Mr D plays a New York hoodlum who, after turning informer, gets relocated to a remote town in Normandy. The family do not settle in. They are soon turning noses up at the food and getting into fights with untrustworthy natives.
Reprising her role in Married to the Mob, Michelle Pfeiffer displays decent comic timing. The kids are pretty good too. Luc Besson shoots with customary flair. True, the rampant Gallophobia (or, noting Besson’s Parisian origins, Normandophobia) is just a little bit worrying. But this still sounds like fairly harmless stuff. Right?
Unfortunately, The Family suffers from an extreme case of advanced tonal disorder. It involves no hyperbole to argue that this might be the most violent film of 2013. Teenagers are beaten to within inches of their lives. Largely blameless neighbours are propelled beyond that point with baseball bats and machine guns. Imagine encountering waterboarding in The Tellytubbies and you will get some notion of the clashing colours on display.
With all that noise, it’s a wonder that Mr De Niro can keep from waking up.