Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) has gotten himself and his family into a spot of bother, and that is down to his connections to the Mafia which has seen him arrested and informing on his former cohorts. For this reason the Manzonis are on the Witness Protection Program, but they have a habit of blowing their cover which is why they are currently driving through France towards Normandy. Thinking that they will never be found there, the F.B.I. have dispatched them to foreign climes where they have been given a new identity - the Blakes - and somewhere to live in a quiet town; surely the Mob wouldn't suspect their target was so far away, would they? They might when the Manzonis have a little behavioural problem...
Funnily enough, The Family was a late on collaboration between those heavyweights of the silver screen Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, the difference between this and their classics being Scorsese was only producing and not directing, though many were relieved that a much-anticipated reunion was not in that capacity when they saw the end result. This was actually directed by Luc Besson, likely why it was set in France, his home nation, and was advertised as a riproaring gangster comedy when one viewing would have you pondering why it wasn't a lot funnier; if anything, this was more like a wry drama with humorous asides, not even much of an action thriller until the last twenty minutes.
The joke was that these Americans are so reluctant to change their ways, even on pain of death, that they simply don't bother, preferring to have the world shape itself around them. Some regarded this as an example of American cultural arrogance and the film was telling us in no uncertain terms that the U.S.A. was the best, but have a think about it and you may arrive at a different conclusion. Was it really so funny that this "typical" American family should settle abroad and bring nothing but violence instead of anything more constructive and productive? Because this was a far more French experience than it was from something across the Atlantic, a scathing satire on how those in France considered the influence of those foreigners who stubbornly refuse to adapt.
Already the night they show up Giovanni is disposing of a body he has stowed away in the back of the car, one of the first jokes to depict him and his countrymen as crude, rude and dangerous to know. It continues in this vein as no sooner has the next day dawned than his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) has blown up the local store for their opinions on Americans and how their culture is dominating the world to the detriment of more indigenous elements, fair enough they were being rude, but they didn't deserve to die for that. Time and again the family uses brute force to get their way, with daughter Belle (Dianna Agron) beating up a would-be suitor for his forwardness and the girl who took her pencil case alike, and Warren (John D'Leo) running all sorts of rackets (the French bullies get in the first punch, but the kid has his revenge with, you guessed it, even stronger violence).
Were they slipping something by the American viewers who lap up action movies, the dumber the better, by pandering to their preferences then allowing the rest of the world to see them as they really were, parochial thugs? If your experience of Americans had been that many of them were perfectly friendly and wouldn't dream of taking up arms to get their way, especially day to day, you might not appreciate what Besson and company were up to, though it certainly made for an interesting tension in the movie. It was impossible to tell how far the American cast - who included Tommy Lee Jones as the Manzonis' handler - were in on the joke at their fellow countrymen's expense since they played it poker face, and even with her accent you did wonder how Pfeiffer would have gotten together with De Niro in the context of the film. It got too clever-clever when Giovanni attends a screening of Goodfellas, indicating American culture might not be good for you, but it sure was addictive, but Besson biting one hand that feeds him was intriguing to watch. Music by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine.