"The Family" Doesn't Quite Gel


There are certain actors that we get excited to see attached to a film. Their name alone will induce nostalgia for cinematic masterpieces that we’ve seen them help create before. Robert De Niro is one of those names. Although it’s no secret his hits have been hit or miss over the past decade, I thought a movie about him on the run from his former mob family would be campy fun. It was, for the back of my eyelids. Don't get me wrong, it's not the worst movie ever, it just doesn't know how to handle it's ensemble and storyline at times.

I’ll give writer/director Luc Besson credit in that he doesn’t spend a lot of time introducing each family member. “The Family” starts with the Blake family moving into their new witness protection house under the cloak of night. Fred Blake (De Niro) is a snitch who ratted out his mob family in the states. The Blakes are not their real name, but the bond is real and the chemistry is there as they get settled in. 


It’s apparent that Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), Belle (Diana Agron), and Warren (John D’Leo) have been through the drill of making a new place home plenty of times before. Wisely, we are introduced to each member of the family through their assimilation into their new community. Warren proves to be a street smart businessman. Maggie is a no-nonsense mom who will blow up the local grocery store if disrespected. Belle proves to be the teenage girl next door with anger problems. She got it honest from her father, who continuously imagines or actually does violently attack people. 


The key to the film is the lead cast members. De Niro’s aged face tells the story of a man who has enjoyed life, but is equally conflicted with some of his life’s decisions. Pfeiffer hits the nail on the head as a mom who loves her family. Tommy Lee Jones picked up an easy check as Chief Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard...I’m sorry that was “The Fugitive”. In this movie his new name-same character is Robert Stansfield. Yet I guess there is a reason he keeps getting type cast in this type of role. Just looking at his tired face sometimes induces a laugh. Throughout the film I kept wanting to see a little more depth with De Niro’s character, but all I could get was his diverse use of the F bomb to describe events whether they are sad, exciting, funny, dangerous, etc. 


It’s the third act of this film that keeps you glued to the screen. As the family starts to slowly unravel in various ways their seams get pulled back in. You can guess that the mob catches up with the family, and by their powers combined...yeah, I figured you’d get it. Besson does a great job using his signature suspense and action scenes in the closing minutes of the film. It’s just unfortunate that the film can’t settle on a tone and genre up until the end. “The Family” is worth a Red Box or Netflix rental especially if you want to get to sleep at night, or have nothing else to do for a couple of hours on a Saturday. 

Rating: C-


Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.