Movie Review: The Family

Today is Monday but a week late. The floodgates of WordsofWisTIM had some rust on them, but after some tinkering have opened.

This film was suggested by a friend and despite all of the films on the shelf I have not watched, I went back to Netflix anyway and watched this.

Up to this point in my life, I have not enjoyed mobster movies. I watched Goodfellas and The Departed. I hated both of them. The acting is phenomenal and the films were definitely worthy of the awards they were nominated for and/or received, but in terms of entertainment, I didn’t find any. Every character is sludge. There are no likable characteristics for any of these people. I shouldn’t be looking for that in a genre like this, but I always try to find at least one good thing that allows me the benefit of the doubt that the people I’m watching aren’t Satan’s minions. I could not find that with either of these movies. I haven’t written a review on either yet and I will eventually, but I’m trying to stay away from the genre right now.

Yet this film was part of the genre and at the same time, not. Never delving into the darker depths of the underworld, The Family manages to detail the intricacies of living the lifestyle. Filth and brutality are met in a whimsical manner rather than the oppressive and forceful avenue. It defers to a satirical touch on the infamous criminal rings. Dark humor with flavor is the way to define The Family.

Luc Besson is probably the best cinematic export from France in the last three decades and deservedly so when you look at his repertoire. The Transporter series provided some mindless fun and yet a memorable character with all things considered that is now spawning a television show and Taken continues to be a popular action flick today.

Besson writes and produces most of his films. Sometimes he also takes the director’s chair and he did just that for the 2013 product. The writing’s parallel to the directing and allows for seamless transitions, steady pacing and changing tempos and tones.

Everyone knows that Robert De Niro is one of the best mob actors to ever hit the silver screen and so it seems fair to assume that he’ll hold his own. Giovanni Manzoni is just another name for the filmography. With that said, Manzoni is a character, not just a name.

Contemplating his life as he’s removed from the brotherhood and crime, Manzoni’s looking for a new outlet to exude his personality. Being the local felon and money-making emperor isn’t an option anymore. He finds an export in writing his memoirs, with the hope that someone will read it and finally know the true Giovanni Manzoni.

Like the chaotic occupation, Manzoni’s flippant facial features demonstrate a lot of emotion as do more than a few profanities. There’s a scene where his son, Warren, is talking to his sister, asking why his dad needs to write memoirs when he can convey all the emotion he needs to with one word, the f-bomb. A very good question and a well-flavored conceptual monologue that I enjoyed.

De Niro’s supporting cast does a fair job of extending the mob life to the rest of the family. The kids’ life at school tops the charts and gets the most screen time. The piercing blunt approach of these two is the metaphorical leading lady and sets the stride for the rest of the film.

De Niro keeps up as does Besson’s tale. Some symbolism is even granted to the viewer’s eyes, as Manzoni, who’s trying to make a clean life for himself, finds the water coming out of the faucet is brown and then spends a large majority of the film trying to find out how to make it clear.

The precise functioning of The Family only makes the third act that more deprecating as the film gasps for air when it should have been running its hardest. No fault can be placed on the cast, only on Besson giving his third act more credit then it deserved.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Gone GirlMulanGuardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the ApesTransformers: Age of Extinction)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young Guns)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(When the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012)MaleficentRise of the Planet of the Apes)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (House at the End of the StreetThe RavenDead SnowRubberHansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (ZoolanderThe Expendables 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: RetaliationVantage Point)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and Aliens)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (GallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmenClash of the Titans)

My score for The Family: 78.

Robert De Niro is great at the mobster spiel and The Family has some original elements that differentiate it from the films before it, but the third act is a letdown. Based more on suspense and surprise action than the vile characters and crime you normally see, The Family is worth the watch and maybe a second viewing.

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