Dark Comedy The Family More Dark Than Comedy
- Thursday, September 12, 2013
DVD Release Date: December 17, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: September 13, 2013
Rating: R for violence, language and brief sexuality
Run Time: 110 min.
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, John D’Leo
Movie humor has always tended to shade into darker territory, but movie violence historically hasn't evoked laughter in favor of shock or horror.
Which films pushed audiences to laugh at on-screen carnage as a rule rather than an exception? Was it 1980s action heroes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, always finding time for a quick quip during the mayhem that dominated their films? Was it the Coen brothers' acclaimed Fargo, which culminated with the discovery of bodies being fed into a wood chipper? Or maybe it was John Travolta accidentally shooting a man in the back seat of a car in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction that sent movie violence into laugh-at-it territory.
Some movie humor is dark, some is darker still, and then there's The Family, a pitch-black, supposed comedy from director Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element) and executive producer Martin Scorsese. Sure, it's dark, but that’s all it is: The Family fails to make any point beyond its harsh humor, reveling instead in one family's sadistic impulses. The film's appealing cast and well-executed comic timing can't mask the repulsive core of this ugly tale.
Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro, The Big Wedding) and his family spend their days in the Witness Protection Program, but they can’t stay out of trouble. They assume new names and move to new locations frequently, staying a step ahead of a group of angry mobsters—mad that Giovanni ratted them out—who are determined to find and kill them. But most of the family's problems are self-inflicted. Even though they've left mob life, they can't seem to shake their old ways, retaliating violently against every perceived wrong done to them.
The family has just relocated—again—to France, but the lovely setting doesn't impress the weary agent Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln), who has tired of watching over Giovanni, his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer, Dark Shadows), and his teenage children Warren (John D’Leo) and Belle (Dianna Agron, I Am Number Four).
Despite Stansfield's plea that Giovanni behave himself, the ex-mobster's old habits die hard (a plumber who can't fix the tainted water in Giovanni's new home ends up in a bad way, as does the factory head who's responsible for the problem). And the tendency to overreact isn't Giovanni's problem alone—it runs in the family, as we learn when Maggie, overhearing some locals speak badly of her in a market, ensures that the establishment burns down.
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