Oh boy, where do I begin. Honestly, I dreaded writing this review. At first glance, the premise seems like it has potential. A mafia boss and his family under the witness protection program are relocated to a sleepy town in France for snitching on the mob. Even under the surveillance of CIA Agent Stansfield and his men, things quickly go awry as The Manzonis, er The Blakes as they’re now called, have a hard time fitting in. Can’t teach old dogs new tricks they say, especially when those dogs are a Brooklyn mob family who are so set in their ways in dealing with problems.
Now, add a dream cast, well dream trio really: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lee Jones, naturally I expect at least a decent dark comedy. Alas, this turns out to be THE biggest dud I’ve seen on the big screen so far. I was pretty close on walking out a few times as the movie seemed to go on forever with barely a single laugh coming out of my mouth. Saying this movie is contrived is putting it mildly. Every single scene is seething with bad taste and every Mafia clichés imaginable, not to mention every French and Italian/American stereotypes. What’s worse, you can figure out the plot from miles away. Even the way the Brooklyn mafia clan find out where they live is so predictable it’s downright irritating.
It’s really quite painful to watch great actors in something this terrible. Y’know, sometimes I don’t mind ridiculous, heck, I’d even tolerate absurdity. But a comedy that’s entirely unfunny — especially with THIS cast — is excruciating. Trust me, I wish I didn’t have to be so harsh but I kept hoping for one redeeming moment, but nope, that moment never came. Ok, there is one scene towards the end but it’s so self aware at its own joke that it feels so forced and exploitative. That scene too, was entirely predictable! I could tell the whole theater wasn’t enjoying it as I didn’t hear much laughter from start to finish, maybe a chortle or two… or perhaps a snicker?
De Niro has done similar comedic role that’s poking fun of the mob in Analyze This. To be honest with you, I’m kind of tired of that shtick, it’s only fun for maybe two seconds. Now, De Niro and Pfeiffer didn’t exactly phone it in here, I give ‘em that, but I’d think they’d recognize a bad script when they see it by now? I’m a big fan of Tommy Lee Jones with his deadpan delivery but here he looks bored the entire time, like he couldn’t be bothered. Hmmm, perhaps that should be a warning to moviegoers?
Tonally, it’s all over the place, Besson just can’t seem to get his footing on what kind of movie he wants to make. I think he aims for a dark comedy but his approach is more like ‘shooting in the dark and see what hits,’ resulting in a misfire no amount of talent could save. It’s astonishing to read later on that Martin Scorsese is one of the executive producer, wow!
The subplots involving the Manzoni’s kids are so uninspired, but not exactly the fault of the young actors. I think John D’Leo and Glee actress Dianna Agron were serviceable enough, D’Leo is especially believable as a sly kid who learned everything from his wiseguy dad. Agron’s role as a principled virgin who takes pleasure in beating people up is so oddly-written though. In any case, the family’s German Shepherd still made more of an impression to me than those two.
There are violent scenes and profanities abound here, which warrants the R-rating. Perhaps people who are into mob movies might dig this one more than I did, but, really fans of any of the main stars here deserve better. Sorry to De Niro fans out there, but I think this Screencrush reviewer said it best: Robert De Niro‘s name on a film project is now more a red flag of warning than a sign of quality. Same with Luc Besson I guess, so don’t expect this to be remotely as shrewd as The Professional and Transporter/Taken film. If you want an action comedy from Besson that’s actually watchable, I guess just rent or rewatch The Fifth Element. By the third act, I was hoping someone would actually take a hit at the whole Blake family and spare us from our misery. I use the word complacent in my review of The World’s End and that’s a word I could use for the major talents involved here, too.