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Originally published Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 12:12 AM

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‘The Family’: The French take a hit in violent mob comedy

A movie review of “The Family,” a violent action comedy about a mob family now living in France under the witness-protection program. It stars Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Movie Review 2 stars

‘The Family,’ with Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, John D’Leo. Directed by Luc Besson, from a screenplay by Besson and Michael Caleo, based on a novel by Tonino Benacquista. 108 minutes. Rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality. Several theaters.

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Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones revisit some blasts from their pasts in “The Family,” a violent action comedy about a mob family in France thanks to the witness-protection program.

De Niro does a little “Analyze This” as Giovanni Manzoni, who ratted out his mob pals back in Brooklyn and now has a $20 million price on his head. He is, he narrates, “a nice guy” who just has to control “my sadistic urges” better. He’s prone to beating people senseless or to death over things like poor service, “disrespect” and the like. And he’s in France.

Funny.

Pfeiffer tones down her “Married to the Mob” turn as Maggie, the long-suffering wife, moving to yet another town where these people — “The Blakes,” they’re called this time — need to fit in. But her encounters with rude French salesclerks bring out the practicing pyromaniac in her.

Their kids — Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo) — have another high school to reconnoiter, master and have their way with.

And Jones is a milder-mannered version of his U.S. marshal characters as a government agent who tries to keep these four alive and keep the incidents with the locals to a minimum.

Everybody speaks English, which helps the kids and their “fuggedaboutit” parents adjust. Except they don’t. The movie also lacks much in the way of “Frenchness,” which is a pity.

And even though the cast is first-rate, “The Family” tends to lurch between laughs, with the most reliable humor coming from the Blakes’ over-the-top violence as a way of solving every problem.

Director Luc Besson aims his movie at anyone who’s ever held a grudge at an ill-mannered French waiter or clerk. If you like your wish-fulfillment payback served with a baseball bat, “The Family” is the French travelogue for you.

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