(director/writer: Luc Besson; screenwriter: based on the novel Malavita by Tonino Benacquista/Michael Caleo; cinematographer: Thierry Arbogast; editor: Julien Rey; music: Evgueni Galperine/Sacha Galperine; cast: Robert De Niro (Giovanni Manzoni), Michelle Pfeiffer (Maggie), Dianna Agron (Belle), John D’Leo (Warren), Tommy Lee Jones (Stansfield), Jimmy Palumbo(Di Cicco), Stan Carp (Don Luchese), Vincent Pastore (Fat Willy), Anthony Desio (Bernie), David Belle (Mezzo), Bruno Cadillon (Teacher),Christopher Craig (Priest), Tonio Descanvelle (Plumber), Christophe Kourotchkine(Sewage Plant Manager), Serge Tranvouez (Mr. Chambard), Jimmy Palumbo (FBI Minder), Domenick Lombardozzi (FBI Minder); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Virginie Silla/Ryan Kavanaugh/ Luc Besson; Relativity Media; 2013)
Who still thinks Robert De Niro is a great actor?

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Who still thinks Robert De Niro is a great actor? After dedicating his later movie life to appearing in one crappy megaplex pic after another, it’s hard to find much good to say about De Niro’s choice of films or his unchallenging similar roles. Here he plays another Italian-American gangster, in a superficial film that shies away from originality as fast as his prior great film Goodfellas ran toward originality. The one-joke Mafia pic was designed to have some laughs spoofing mobsters, but if there were any laughs they were few and far between.

French action director Luc Besson(“La Femme Nikita”/”The Fifth Element”/”The Professional”), the wrong director for a mobster comedy, handles the off-beat farce about a NYC Mafia family on the run in a foreign country while in the federal “witness protection program” in a leaden tone. Bresson thinks he can get laughs over a few head bashings and showcasing a bunch of overly familiar Italian-American gangster stereotypes killing every Normandy citizen it spots in a mob hit. The gross misfire is based on the comic novel Malavita by Tonino Benacquista, and is written in a ham-fisted way by Besson and Michael Caleo.

Brooklyn mob snitch Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) has been on the run with his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), his 14-year-old son Warren (John D’Leo) and teenage daughter Belle (Dianna Agron) from jailed mob boss Don Luchese’ (Stan Carp) retaliation for years. Their newest residence is in a sleepy remote town in Normandy, where they are watched by FBI agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) and his two-FBI minders (Jimmy Palumbo and Domenick Lombardozzi). The mobster, given the name Fred Blake, tells neighbors he’s writing a book on the Normandy landing. The crude family experiences culture clashes with the locals and revert to their gangsters ways, as Maggie burns down the supermarket that disses her request for peanut butter, while the kids bring their gangster ways to school. It also has our loveable Mafia man beating the daylights out of the corrupt local plumber and the town’s chemical plant CEO for causing brown water in their home pipes. Its money scene has the mobster’s location compromised and the Brooklyn Mafia goons coming en masse to Normandy to get their revenge.

The comedy part could have used laugh tracks, while the action scenes were embarrassingly trite. The overlong dud looks like a lazily made for TV movie, where the veteran actors go through the motions for another paycheck. It even fails to entertain if you are willing to overlook all its faults and settle just for a cheap thrill or two, as it was too ill-conceived to make any sense or reach for any real comedy. Though it had one piquant moment, when the gangster-in-hiding is invited by his English teacher neighbor to address the local film club on Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running but the wrong film arrives and he ironically has to give instead a talk on Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.