When I recently ‘blogged’ Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2013) I stated that complete nonsense can be fun and that Branagh’s film committed the greatest sin in the action genre in that it was tediousness! Now I can give you another example of an action drama that the critics hated, but in this case it was, at least for me, a great deal of fun which in turn made it a very diverting watch.
Luc Besson is a prolific movie director capable of making some very watchable movies from the seriousness of The Lady (2011) to the quirkiness of his comic book adaptation of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (2010) and the Cinema du look of Subway (2010), The Big Blue (1988) and Nikita (1990) and The Family (2013) or to give it its French title Malavita, is certainly no exception. Described as a dark action drama it involves an ex-Mafia boss, Robert De Niro, and his wife, the still very attractive Michelle Pfeiffer, and their two teenage children Dianna Agron and John D’Leo who are relocated to a small Normandy village in France under a Witness Protection Program after ‘grassing up’ their Mafia connections. Assigned to keep the Manzoni family in line is FBI agent Tommy Lee Jones. Most of the ‘humour’ comes from the fact all four members of our ‘family under cover’ have problems forgetting their old Brooklyn way’s. We witness mum blowing up the local Supermarché when a shop assistant insults her; dad has his own unique way of dealing with the problem of brown water and the two kids are not long making them selves known at the local school. But as you would expect it’s not long before their former Mafia cronies’ track them down and all hell breaks loose.
Made as a tongue in cheek tribute to the gangster movies of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola this English language French film is based on the novel Malavita by the award winning French crime fiction writer Tonino Benacquista, and has been adapted as a screenplay by Besson and Michael Caleo. The real strength of this film is in its splendid cast who along with Besson’s direction really highlight’s the clash of comedic cultures between the Americans and the parochial villagers. The chemistry between De Niro and Pfeiffer is well worth the cost of a DVD on its own. Prime entertainment for politically incorrect people.