What exactly can we do to rescue Robert De Niro? The actor who is still rightly considered one of the best of his generation, and one who used his considerable wealth and power to establish an event as important as the Tribeca Film Festival, still can't seem to find roles that actually remind us of his skills. The closest he's come recently was in Being Flynn, the small film from earlier this year that actually required him to act-- some people argued he was sleepwalking through it once again, but I liked it. Still, one reasonably well-reviewed role in a decade isn't exactly a great track record, so maybe De Niro shouldn't necessarily fight against the skid of middlebrow roles, but lean into it?

Alright, let me explain. The news at Variety is that De Niro is teaming up with director and producer Luc Besson-- France's answer to Tony Scott-- for Malavita, a thriller about a retired American gangster living under the witness protection program in France. Not only does it have De Niro once again riffing on his own gangster movie persona, but it's based on a book called Badfellas-- yes, a spin on Goodfellas, the movie in which De Niro starred. Production is set to start in mid-August in France, which makes it the first directorial effort from Besson since last year's The Lady.

So why is any of this a good thing? Because Besson has a better grip on middle-of-the-road, slightly schlocky and very entertaining films than many American directors. Not only that, but with Taken (which he produced) he managed to completely change the direction of Liam Neeson's career, turning the prestige actor into an unlikely action star. Could a similar switcher be the key to making De Niro feel relevant again? It's at least worth a shot, especially given that De Niro's other upcoming projects include the Sundance flop Red Lights, the "old man Hangover" movie Last Vegas, and maybe the Midnight Run sequel nobody asked for. He's not limiting himself, that's for sure, but even if the Besson collaboration doesn't pan out at all, I'm choosing to see that-- and his role in The Silver Linings Playbook-- as the glimmer of hope.

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