I decided to see The Family on the strength of its trailer. I was expecting a dark comedy with violence and a mafia theme. I love it when a film delivers on the trailer's promise. I also appreciate that most of the trailer's good scenes are relatively early in the film and therefore not spoilery.
What I wasn't expecting was a foreign film. Despite the American cast, the movie was shot in France and directed by Luc Besson. This is neither a negative nor a positive, just not what I was expecting.
This is not a complicated movie. It's light fun - as long as you're okay with sociopaths and mob violence. Briefly, the plot follows a family of four - parents and their teenage son and daughter - who are in the witness protection program, and have taken refuge in France.
Much of the movie's action (and charm) derives from how completely terrible they are are keeping their heads down and not making waves. Their ineptness is a direct result of their insanity, which is to say their lack of impulse control and basic morality. If De Niro and Pfeiifer weren't such great actors, their characters would probably be really unlikable.
The children are in some ways more interesting than the adults. They are distinct, complex characters, and while for the most part their plot arcs are merely side stories, they play relevant parts in the resolution of the main plot. They are also less cliched than the adults, which is a nice bonus.
The remaining major character is Tommy Lee Jones' FBI agent. The interaction between him and De Niro is quite lovely. They effortlessly bring a familiar tension which fits the relationship of the characters, who are allies but not friends. Bonus points to the screenwriter for giving them witty, snarky things to say to each other.
I enjoyed the movie. It is more laid-back than I think an American production of the same story would be. It drags a bit in the middle. But its parts are well-constructed, and the climax was satisfying, with one caveat: given my earlier assertion that the four main characters are all sociopaths, I thought some of the emotional reactions in the ending were out of character.
This movie is rated R for a reason - it has plenty of violence, much of it gratuitously bloody, and also a fair amount of swearing. The swearing wasn't gratuitous, though.
It ranks as low as it does on my list because while it was fun, it wasn't all that memorable.
1. Much Ado About Nothing
2. Now You See Me
3. The World's End
4. Despicable Me 2
5. Star Trek: Into Darkness
7. Iron Man 3
8. Pacific Rim
9. Kick Ass 2
10. Man of Steel
11. Jack the Giant Slayer
12. Beautiful Creatures
13. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
14. The Family
16. Oz the Great and Powerful
18. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
19. The Wolverine
21. Monsters University
22. Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters
23. The Grandmaster
24. The Great Gatsby
25. The Lone Ranger
26. This is the End