By M. Scott Morris
During a late-night drive, Fred Blake’s family members smell something funny in the car. He blames the dog.
A few minutes into “The Family,” everyone is safely in their new house, and Fred (Robert De Niro) takes the dog outside. He apologizes to the dog, then takes a dead body out of the car’s trunk.
For fans of dark comedy, “The Family” is an unexpected gem of a movie. The Blakes aren’t really the Blakes. They’re the Manzoni family and they’re in the Witness Protection Program in France because the dad turned against the mob.
Hitmen track them to France’s Riviera, which causes that late-night drive to Normandy.
Maggie Blake (Michelle Pfeiffer) plays a loving mother and hard-as-nails woman who doesn’t take it kindly when townsfolk consider her an ugly American.
If the French knew how ugly the Blakes truly are, they’d skip town for the duration of the family’s stay.
Warren Blake (John D’Leo) is a chip off the old sociopathic block at school, and Belle Blake (Dianna Agron) clearly inherited DNA from both of her parents.
Tommy Lee Jones portrays Stansfield, the agent responsible for keeping the family in line. He’s suitably stoned-face, much like his role in “The Fugitive.”
There aren’t a lot of laughs, though there was one moment between Jones and De Niro that had me laughing out loud for what felt like minutes but was probably 30 seconds.
In another scene, Maggie is angry at her husband, but he slowly seduces her. It’s a chance to see two masters at work.
Agron and D’Leo have their cool moments, too, as when they use wonderfully descriptive language to explain what an artist their father is with a certain four-letter word that starts with an “F.”
The movie is directed and co-written by Luc Besson, who gave us “Taken” a few years ago. “The Family” can’t meet that movie’s festival-of-violence standard, but the mob is dedicated to killing the Blake/Manzoni family and innocent bystanders better beware.
There is something light-hearted about “The Family,” and it probably has to do with the way the four Blakes get along with each other, but make no mistake: This is a darkly engaging ride.
I give “The Family” an A minus.
It’s showing at the Cinemark in Tupelo, as well as Malcos in Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, and Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.