De Niro does himself no favors in mediocre mob joke ‘The Family’

Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro in ‘The Family.’ Rated R, 110 min. Relativity Media, 2013.

“The Family” – featuring Robert De Niro’s latest turn as a retired Mafioso – was released without much fanfare, and it’s easy to see why. De Niro has mined this territory before (remember “Analyze This”?), and now he seems barely committed to trying to make the awkward tone of this darkly comic thriller work.

Directed by French action legend Luc Besson, the violent R-rated film drops Giovanni (De Niro) and his family (Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron and John D’Leo) into a small French town under the FBI’s witness protection program. But the family’s old ways continue, bringing crime and mischief to the grocery store, a backyard cookout, at school, and the mayor’s office.

Predictably, the finale is a showdown between the family and Giovanni’s old crew, there to seek revenge. The most unpredictable part of the largely forgettable movie is that Tommy Lee Jones shows up as an FBI handler who spars amiably with De Niro. The two have a nice Odd Couple rhythm, but when they watch “Goodfellas” (which starred De Niro), the movie further devolves into depressing self-mockery. Hopefully, one of the best acting careers of all time will not continue down the lackluster path set by “The Family.”

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