Before I start the review, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. I cannot accurately talk about how great this movie is without giving away crucial plot points. If you don't want spoilers, it was amazing and it tells the story of "what happens after the mob." It is great for any fan of mobster movies like good fellas and the godfather. Now if you want to continue with the spoilers, continue reading.
OK, ready for spoilers? Because here they come.
Hey everyone, today I felt like talking about The Family, a 2013 mob comedy/drama film staring Robert De Niro. I would like to start off with this; this is no masterpiece of cinema. The story is kind of basic, the characters are only developed to the point where we don't ask "why are they here" but it feels like the movie expects us to already know who they are and what their motives are, some technical aspects like lighting are questionable, and as a stand alone film, the climax is full of deus ex machina coincidences, and it kind of feels like watching a sequel without an original. But that leads me into my main point, this isn't a stand alone film. Technically it is because there is no prequel or sequel, but to me this is a spiritual sequel to all the mob stories that end with main character leaving the mob and entering witness protection for ratting out the other mobsters. Stories end with the character going off to live a normal life, but this movie asks the question "is that really possible?"
I'll start out with the backstory. Frank Blake (De Niro) is a former mobster that ratted out his mob companions for police protection and his family is currently being relocated to France. We are led to believe that this isn't their first relocation because they seem familiar with the process and know the witness protection agents well. Frank's family consists of his wife Maggie, daughter Belle, and son Warren. They are accompanied by Tommy Lee Jones head of their protection case and his 2 agents that keep tabs on the Blake family. The Blakes are friendly with the agents, and aside from the fact that there are 2 government agents watching their every move, they seem like a normal American family, the kids go to high school, the wife does errands, and the husband works. He's a writer, which may seem a little weird, but he's an American living in France, maybe he went there for inspiration. Maggie has to deal with rude locals that make fun of her for being an outsider. Warren has to deal with bullying at school. Belle has to deal with boys getting fresh with her. Frank has to deal with dirty tap water and who to talk to to fix it. Rather typical stuff.
But here's the kicker, you can take the family out of the mob, but you can't take the mob out of the family. What do I mean by that? Simple, these guys still settle their problems like mobsters. We're not outright told that Frank killing a guy in their last residence was the reason they moved, but Frank has to dispose of a body that he brought from the other town, and he does it by digging a shallow grave. When Maggie was insulted by the locals when running errands, she blew up grocery store with an improvised propane bomb. When Warren was being bullied, he did the right combination of favors through like 10 different people to get the bullying to stop. When boys were getting fresh with Belle, she beat them up badly and stole their car. When Frank was getting jerked around by the plumber, he put him in the hospital and made it look like an accident. When the mayor interrupted him during the meeting about the city tap water, he dragged him behind his car for miles and made it look like a motor cycle accident. When he found out it was the fertilizer plant that made the water brown, he blew up the fertilizer plant. They deal with their problems like mobsters and that's what makes it entertaining.
Do we know who each of these characters are, not really. Do we need to know who these characters are? Not really. They are gangsters. If you are familiar with any mob stories, you know the characters. In fact Frank tries to be friendly by discussing a movie with the local film society. Tommy Lee Jones isn't to happy with the idea, but as Frank put it "you want me to integrate, so I'm integrating." Jones accompanies him to the movie, and it was supposed to be some old American film, but there was a problem with the distributor so they sent them Goodfellas instead. Jones says "we need to get out of here, I'm not going to have you rhapsodize about your old life." This along with short glimpses into the past tell us that they had a "typical mob life." With the way the wife and kids handle things, you can tell that they had to deal with mob problems too. We know the characters because they are American gangsters. The fact that we don't know much about them also involves the whole "witness protection" thing. Like, "the people they once were are dead, they are the Blake family now, but history can't be erased." Maggie even went to confession about her sins as a mob wife and she "broke the priest" as my one friend puts it. I can tell she got closure, but her past haunts her to the point that the priest doesn't want her at church.
Now one thing that I really like about this film is that they do show that while they aren't a perfect family, they are still family and they love each other. The dysfunction is played up when the everyone is secretive about how they are handling their problems. You can tell that they love each other, but you can also tell that they are forced to be together almost against their wishes. However, once the old mobsters that went into hiding after the snitching find the Blakes, the family love really comes out. Warren was ready to run off and start his own mob family, Belle was ready to kill herself because a boy broke her heart, and Maggie and Frank were really at each others throats about the "missadventures" they had during the movie. However, once the old mobsters started coming after them, they all banded together to save each other, risking their own life to save the others. It would have been really easy for Warren to abandon his family and for Belle to kill herself, but they don't, they go back for their family. And this is really where the whole "you can't take the mob out of the family" comes into place. The kids are wielding automatic rifles spraying bullets at the enemies. Maggie is doing some serious gun work. Frank takes out guys with improvised blunt weapons. And you knew that these were old associates of Frank's; A, because Warren recognized them on his way out of town, and B, because one of them greeted Maggie in one of those friendly "how are you doing old friend, I now have to kill you" sort of ways. However, if it wasn't for the love this family has, they wouldn't have made it. It was really great.
All I have to say is, if you're a fan of mob movies, you will like this. It tells the story of "well what happens after the mob?" While it may have said "and they lived a normal life," they didn't. You can take the family out of the mob, but you can't take the mob out of the family. Here's a link to get it on Amazon. Well, this has been Pokematic, signing off, and bu-bye.