This bonus musing arrives laced with juicy insight thanks to We Are Twin and their single “The Way We Touch,” which happened to cue up on my iTunes playlist as I was heading to the multiplex to catch up with Luc Besson’s long-awaited return to the director’s chair, The Family, starring Robert De Niro (The Godfather, Part II, Goodfellas, Casino) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Scarface, Married to the Mob). Besson’s been overseeing productions from his action-fantasy franchise factory (with dependable models like Taken and The Transporter cycling through routinely in the US market, while Taxi and Arthur, the children’s series satisfy foreign tastes), but there hasn’t been a proper Besson directorial effort since 1999’s The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, although most hard-core fans would argue that you really have to go back a few years before that to The Fifth Element. Element is the stuff of cult legend, full of zany hijinks, ludicrously over-the-top instances of gratuitous sex and violence, and yet a somehow gritty sensiblity in love with movies, past, present, and most certainly the future of this entertaining form.
So, why had I put off my trek to the theater to check out The Family? Another mobbed up excursion by De Niro, another iteration of family vs “the family.” Oh, that’s right, I had no interest in another wink-wink job, jazzed up with fast-editing and loud music.
But, there I was, driving along the highway with the windows down, grooving to the propulsive force of We Are Twin and those lyrics – “I’ve got my hands around your neck / my lips upon your chest / you love it, how I need you boy / oh, dare I say the rest” – had me dreaming about Pfeiffer and De Niro, the mama and the papa of this dirty little mafia family. We’ve seen enough of them, the early days to imagine what kind of thrill it was that might have brought them together. The rush of passion, the primal murderous urge. It was in the music, beating its way through the speakers, and I could feel the heat of it, writing their past in funky sweat and steaming blood. “As long as we’re together / we’ve got love extraordinaire.”
That jangling guitar riffing and tribal thumping in my eardrum and my temple and in my bounding steps through to my seat, sets the tone for my experience of the movie. I half-expect to hear, “if you would be my best friend / and I would build a home / where the both of us could live alone / where you can grow into your own,” because, on some level that was what was happening in the relationship between these two. “You had me on the hook / from the moment you said, baby.” You better believe it.
By the time we encounter Pfeiffer and De Niro, on the run from the mob family they snitched on, they are an old married couple with kids. That older life of theirs hounds them, urging them on. Besson’s version of the mob is brutal and surprisingly efficient; even when they kill the wrong people, the enforcers don’t hold back. It is so close to the kind of reckoning audiences might expect from No Country For Old Men that it doesn’t feel real. This is mythic retribution, the likes of which you just can’t escape.
Yet, Pfeiffer and De Niro’s characters, neither of them seems bothered by it, not in the way you would expect. They aren’t trying to forget the past or the sins piled up back there. They have a sense of peace with it all, as if they know each of those actions merely introduced the next act. The same goes for Besson as well as the actors. The past informs the decisions they make in these emerging moments. They enjoy the intimate embrace of the dark and the potential light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. And as We Are Twin keep reminding me, “I love it how I can’t resist the way you are / the way we touch.”
It is a perfect match.