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Review The Family a.k.a. Malavita (2013)

genre: crime, action, comedy

For this review my approach will be different. And I will tell you why that is. I am a big fan of everything that Luc Besson puts out. If his name is attached to the production then at least I know for sure I will be entertained. How depends on the genre and the tone. But usually it is action mixed with comedy. After not having seen from him I could not be more psyched about a Luc Besson movie starring none other than Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones. With actors of that caliber and Luc Besson at the helm what could go wrong? As it turns out quite a lot.

Here I was really getting into it and patiently waiting for the film to unfold in that special delight I was expecting. Sadly after one hour and six minutes I could not tolerate it any more. I stopped watching. All this time there was not one truly hilarious funny event. There were hints of jokes that got started but never got delivered because the punch line was missing. I know it is all meant to be funny but I barely could chuckle. A lot of the jokes are so lame I can't believe that Luc Besson who brought us gems as the Taxi franchise or Leon could be so underwhelming and plain bad. Maybe one could argue that the comedy is of the subtle variety and that one has to dig deep. Robert De Niro plays a mob boss. Apparently a very important one because he gets protection since it is made clear that he even has connections to The White House. Giovanni Manzoni perceives himself as a good man. There is a sequence where he mentions the reasons why he is good. Here was a moment where the comedy should have been sharp and witty. But the reasons that are given firstly aren't illustrated well and don't really coincide with what is being said. Plus there is no need to have a sequence like this since Giovanni constantly is saying how he is looking out for his family the best he can. The fact that he is a total psycho is what makes his perception supposedly funny. I would have bought all of that if he was truly shown in another light on occasion. Yet we only get to see very little of real goodness. And then the violence no matter how brutal becomes tedious. It doesn't help that the other members in the family also are violent and psychotic. Isn't there more to them?

My thoughts on the rest of the film:
I watched all of it and I am happy to mention that Luc Besson did not let me down completely. He added a little more to the table to make it interesting. There is a realization in some of the characters that they are screwed up and are trying their hardest to become normal. Their inability to do so is tragic and compelling. Most apparent concerning Bella Blake.  Then there is the compulsory explosive action finale that is less stylish as we are used to from other Luc Besson flicks but effective enough. (One of the goons in the finale is David Belle (inventor of Parkour). What he was doing here is a real mystery to me. But I hope this means we will see more of him doing his thing because he can provide the kind of action I am craving for.) I think it is fair to say that the finale is a redeeming factor. Still not enough to make me forget about the first hour. Overall I found The Family to be a disappointing affair. I was hoping for so much more. Luc Besson dropped the ball on this one.

Additional note:
The Family in it's premise reminds me of a Dutch movie called Flodder (1986) which is directed by Dick Maas. It is about an asocial family whose house gets demolished and as compensation end up in this rich luxurious suburb where mayhem and chaos ensues. While maybe the most of the jokes are of the slapstick and crude variety some of it can be seen as a social commentary that is quite sharp and witty. Also I liked how the family portrayed in that one truly cared about each other and acted more as an unity.  So if you  manage to get a hold of this then do so since it is much wittier and far more entertaining. 


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