Murder and violence are played for laughs — at times — in “The Family,” a VERY slow-starting film starring Robert DeNiro as Fred Manzoni, an ex-mobster who ratted out his crime family. Fred and his wife, Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter, Belle (Dianna Agron), and son, Warren (John D’Leo) are in witness protection in Normandy, France, but they’re not exactly reformed.
Maybe France isn’t the best place for them because each of the family members reacts to rudeness as if they’re responding to peashooters with nuclear weapons.
At one point a priest who has heard Maggie’s confession tells her, “Your family is the incarnation of evil!”
Writer/director Luc Besson mixes extreme violence with comedy in a way that sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. Heartfelt scenes of loving family members are set against scenes of sadistic brutality. There are chuckles planted amidst the surreal images of a death and destruction — and the surreal image of DeNiro’s character watching one of DeNiro’s earlier movies. All leading up to a climactic series of events that are beyond tense.
There are things to like here, not the least of which are the performances of the stars — including Tommy Lee Jones as the family’s FBI handler. But even after the pace picks up, “The Family” is wildly uneven.
Opens today at theaters everywhere; rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality; 112 minutes.