ⓘ The Family (2013 film)


ⓘ The Family (2013 film)

The Family is a 2013 black comedy crime film directed by Luc Besson, starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, and John DLeo. The film follows a Mafia family in the witness protection program who want to change their lives. The film is based on the French novel Malavita by Tonino Benacquista.


1. Plot

Mafia boss Giovanni Manzoni, who offended Don Luchese, a rival mafia boss, survives an attempted hit on him and his family at a barbecue. He snitches on Luchese, which sends Luchese to prison; Manzoni and his family enter an FBI witness protection program under the supervision of Agent Robert Stansfield, and are relocated to a small town in Normandy.

In adjusting to life in the village, each family member runs into trouble. Giovanni is being observed by two FBI agents to ensure he doesnt leave his house. Giovanni claims to be an author writing a historical novel on the Normandy landings, which is problematic as many citizens in the area are much more familiar with the event than he is. Giovanni finds ways to slip away and begins a quest to discover why the water in his house is brown. He beats a plumber who tries to shake him down for money to unnecessarily change all the pipes in his house, and a local fertilizer factory owner who interrupts him while he is talking.

Daughter Belle falls in love with Henri, a college student working as a substitute math teacher. She pretends to need private math lessons so she can get time alone with him and she eventually seduces him. Giovannis wife, Maggie, blows up a small grocery store when its owner spews anti-American comments in French to the other customers and often visits the undercover FBI agents. She spends a lot of time at the church, where she and the local priest have an amicable relationship. Their friendship ends when she confesses the numerous crimes her family has committed and he tells her never to come back.

On the first day of class at the local school, Warren, Giovannis son, is beaten up by a small gang, but he digs up information and uses it to gain favor with the most influential students, creating a mini-mafia within the school. This sway allows him to beat up the gang. He inadvertently alerts Don Luchese to their location when he quotes one of the kingpins sayings in a school paper, which makes its way back to Luchese through a series of chance events.

Giovanni is asked to attend an American film event due to his supposed historical expertise and he brings Agent Stansfield along, claiming to want to bond with him, but its an alibi for a timed explosive he has rigged to destroy the structure causing his brown water. The film screening takes an unexpected turn when instead of Some Came Running, the scheduled film, they watch Goodfellas. Throughout the film, Giovanni expresses a desire to talk about his life as a mobster, seemingly expressing some guilt. The debate after the film prompts him to tell his story to the audience. Feeling his cover has been compromised, Agent Stansfield gives an order to relocate the family again.

Meanwhile, the school detects Warrens activities so he decides to leave town with a fake passport, afraid that the FBI will drop the familys protection. At the train station, he sees seven hitmen arrive and head for the town. He returns home to warn the family. Henri breaks up with Belle, which causes her to contemplate suicide, but she stops when she sees the hitmen enter the police station and kill several officers. As Giovanni returns home, Maggie arrives outside and notices the team of hitmen, who have already killed firemen and who have proceeded to kill their neighbours. She takes cover in the FBI safe-house across the street.

The hitmen blow up the familys house and soon an intense gunfight ensues which involves all family members. Giovanni and Maggie strangle and stab a hitman after he raids the safe-house and tries to sexually assault Maggie. Belle kills a hitman who went to look for weapons in his cars trunk. Using weapons she found in the trunk, she shoots one of the five hitmen near the burning house. Warren also takes guns from the trunk of the car and shoots two of the hitmen while being given cover fire by Belle. One hitman is killed by the family dog. While chasing Belle, the lead hitman is killed by Stansfields car.

The family relocates again. Despite numerous innocent townspeople being slaughtered, Giovanni expresses his happiness at having had the chance to tell his story, saying that it brought the family closer.


2. Cast

  • Tommy Lee Jones as Robert Stansfield, the FBI agent.
  • Dianna Agron as Belle Blake/Belle Manzoni, the daughter.
  • Jonas Bloquet as Andre
  • Michael J. Panichelli Jr. as Billy the Bug
  • John DLeo as Warren Blake/Warren Manzoni, the son.
  • David Belle as Mezzo
  • Victoire Du Bois as Pink Ribbon Girl
  • Oisin Stack as Henri
  • Ted Arcidi as Tommy
  • Stan Carp as Don Luchese
  • Jon Freda as Rocco
  • Michelle Pfeiffer as Maggie Blake/Maggie Manzoni, the mother.
  • Jimmy Palumbo as Di Cicco
  • Robert De Niro as Fred Blake/Giovanni Manzoni, the father.
  • Vincent Pastore as Fat Willy
  • Domenick Lombardozzi as Caputo
  • Anthony Desio as Bernie
  • Paul Borghese as Albert

3.1. Production Development

EuropaCorp and Relativity Media signed during March 2012 to develop two films, including their distribution. The Family would become the first one, and the second one would be Three Days to Kill 2014.

The script, written by Luc Besson and Michael Caleo, is based on the novel Malavita by Tonino Benacquista, published in 2004. The author did not want to be very involved in the development of the film, he said: "I knew that EuropaCorp would be capable of producing a film that could be distributed, both in the United States and France, and it was a very tempting topic". The producer of the film, Virginie Besson-Silla, said that the films storyline is nearly the same as the novels.

Originally, Besson would be only the producer. But after finding out that he was going to work with Robert De Niro and not finding a proper director, he decided to direct the film as well: "I thought that it was out of the question to entrust this project to any other person! I know the American and French cultures, so I decided to make me the director." De Niro asked Besson why he was not the director, and Besson told him: "Okay, you won."


3.2. Production Casting

The books author wanted the cast to be "American actors that have their own legend, and when appearing on the big screen, they dont have to convince." When Besson asked him who he wanted to be the lead role, he proposed Robert De Niro. They sent him a letter, and later De Niro agreed to participate in the project.

In June 2012, it was confirmed that Michelle Pfeiffer would join the cast of The Family, as she was interested in working with De Niro. They had starred together in different films but never were able to film scenes with each other. Before casting the movie, Besson said that author Tonino Benacquista mused, "t would be so perfect if Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer played the roles." "It was like a dream." said Besson. Besson always thought of Dianna Agron while writing the character Belle Blake. Despite this, Agron had to attend multiple auditions. Agron later won the part. The entire Glee cast and crew supported Agrons departure from the show to be part of the film. A dog named Emeron was chosen to be Malavita, the familys pet dog. Emeron was trained by a specialist, and De Niro was the only person, beside the dog trainer, to spend time with him during the workout. Besson auditioned more than 500 actors for the character of Warren Blake, before casting DLeo. The Family was De Niros 96th feature film.


3.3. Production Filming

Principal photography began 8 August 2012 and completed on 27 October 2012.

Filming took place in the locations of both Gace and Le Sap in Normandy, and in New York City. Some of the filming also took place LAigle and at Cite du Cinema in Saint-Denis for 1 month.


3.4. Production Title

In May 2013, it was revealed that the film, originally titled Malavita, would be re-titled The Family in the United States and some English-speaking countries. In countries, including France, the Malavita title was retained.


4. Music

The Family Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on 13 September 2013, the same day of the films premiere. It includes original compositions by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine.

Clint Eastwood and To Binge by Gorillaz and The Greatest by Cat Power are used in the film but does not appear on the Soundtrack album. Another notable song that does not appear on the soundtrack, but appears in the film nonetheless, is Genius Of Love by Tom Club. The song plays in the background during the barbeque scene.


5. Release

The first trailer of The Family was released on 4 June 2013. For France, the first trailer for Malavita was released in mid-July 2013. In August, some TV spots were released to promote the film. The film was initially set to be released, by Relativity Media, on 18 October 2013, then changed to 20 September 2013. The film was eventually pushed up to 13 September 2013.

Home media

The Family was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 17 December 2013.


6.1. Reception Critical response

Rotten Tomatoes shows that 29% of 127 reviews rated it positively; the average rating is 4.6/10. The sites consensus is: "Luc Bessons The Family suffers from an overly familiar setup and a number of jarring tonal shifts." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 42 based on 32 reviews.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky from The A.V. Club gave the film a B−, and said: "Besson creates the impression that The Family is set in a world drawn from gangster movies and comic strips - an idea that culminates in De Niro participating, as the town’s token American, in a film club discussion of a certain Martin Scorsese movie." Stephanie Merry from The Washington Post gave the film one out of four stars, stating: "There’s little to laugh about in dark comedy The Family." Time Outs critic, Nick Schager, gave the film one out of five stars, saying that film director Luc Besson "treats his protagonists as likable cartoons yet never provides a single reason to view them as anything less than remorseless, repugnant psychos." MSN Entertainment gave the film three out of five stars, saying: "Sharper, smarter and slicker than it looks, theres a lot to like about "The Family."

Linda Barnard from Toronto Star gave the film two out of four stars, saying: "While Besson knows his way around an action film, he’s not as adept at comedy. The result is an often-violent, occasionally amusing fish-out-of-eau tale that plunks a family of wise guys in the French countryside with predictable results." Mack Rawden from Cinema Blend gave the film three out of five stars, saying: "It uses irregular De Niro voiceovers on occasion. It reads segments of a book on occasion. It even uses bad dreams and flashbacks, all of which, when used together, make the film seem disorganized and poorly put together. All of that, coupled with more than a few jokes that fall flat and a plot that’s windy and strangely paced keep The Family from being anything more than a likeable enough way to spend an hour and forty-five minutes." Stephen Holden of the New York Times summed up the mixed reaction to the film: "The movie has holes galore. It has abrupt tonal shifts, an incoherent back story and abandoned subplots. But buoyed by hot performances, it sustains a zapping electrical energy."

Although the film did not generate many positive reviews, the cast was praised by critics. THV11 said: "The core actors of The Family were really solid and the whole film comes together to make a solid movie." Entertainment Weekly commented about Robert De Niros role, saying: "At this point, Robert De Niro has built an entire subgenre of movies in which he sticks his tongue out at his cinematic legacy." The Huffington Post said that: "De Niro, Pfeiffer and Jones all brought 100% to their roles. Glee actress Dianna Agron was the stand-out here, shining as the daughter who was falling in love for the first time, while defending her family from total annihilation by the mafia."


6.2. Reception Box office

The Family debuted at #2 in its first weekend, with $14 million, coming in behind Insidious: Chapter 2, which made $40.3 million in its opening weekend.