Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Godfather Part III Review


"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." 
So again I am deviating from the beaten track to review number 663 on the top 1000 greatest films of all time.  Francis Ford Coppola's third installment in the Godfather trilogy: the Godfather Part III (1990)

What's it about: Set almost twnety years after its predecessor, the Godfather Part III sees a far older Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) finally seeming to succeed in legitimising his criminal empire.  Having performed Vast amounts of charity work, he is named a Commander of the Order of Saint Sebastian by the church.  In his final attempt to legitimise the Corleones, he offers to pay the Vatican's huge debt in exchange for their shares in Immobilare- a global housing company.  However, Vincenzo Mancini (Andy Garcia) theatrens to plunge Michael back into the criminal underworld.  Vincenzo is Sonny's, Michael's older brother, illegitimate son, and Michael's nephew.  Yet Vincenzo's volatile disposition and heated rivalry with New York caporegime Joey Zaza threatens to destroy everything that Michael has built.

What worked: Francis Ford Coppola has described the Godfather Part III as an epilogue to the Godfather trilogy and I would agree with this.  The Godfather Part III hearkens back to the previous films enough without adding in too many new elements.  Granted most of the original cast are missing, which I will discuss later, but the same themes and ideas are present.  Family is at its most prominent in this film, especially within Michael's own family.  I particularly liked the dynamic between Michael and his son Anthony who, rather than going into family business wants to become an opera singer.  I felt that this was a great callback to the original film and I half expected Anthony to follow in his father's footsteps.  However, this role was filled by Vincenzo, who differently to Anthony wants nothing more to be a pezzonovante.  Like his father, Vincenzo has a vicious temper, which makes him one of the film'st most interesting characters.  James Caan who played Sonny in the first film had such a huge, magnetic presence that I think the second film suffers heavily from the lack of his inclusion.  I was glad to see a similar character who brought a charisma and energy to the film, which the second one lacked.

I also really liked how this film focuses more on family loyalty and dispenses with the lengthy courtoom scenes of the second film.  While the Mafia scenes are entertaining, I feel that the true interest lies in the psychology of the Michael trying to hold all aspects of his life together.  He is desperately seeking redemption from his violent past.  Al Pacino, as he usually is, was great in his role and really looked the part.  

I enjoyed how the female characters, especially Michael's sister, Connie (Talia Shire) were given much more to do in this film.  I think that the character was underused in the first two films and it was nice to see her do more than cry.  She takes much greater control in this film okaying Vincenzo to whack Joey Zaza and also orchestrating the death of traitor Don Altobello.  Overall a much more interesting and well-rounded character. 

Whilst the narrative is not always the easiest to follow, I felt that it was engaging throughout and alternated well between Michael's family life and his mob life.  A lot of the film was also set in Sicily and I thought this was a refreshing and interesting change to New York.

What didn't work: Whilst I don't think that this film is as bad as people say, I agree that it is definitely the worst of the three.  Sofia Coppola's performance as Michael's daughter Mary was critically panned and I can see why.  I didn't like her.  Throughout the film, she had a smarmy smile on her face that made her look arrogant and stuck-up.  Furthermore her incestuous relationship with her first cousin Vincenzo was awkward, cringeworthy and a little weird.  Although to be fair to her, she only took the role at her father's request after Wiona Ryder dropped out, despite having little acting experience.

I think one thing that does hurt this film is its largely new cast.  Al Pacino, Diane Keaton and Talia Shire are the only prominent returnees.  Robert Duvall was supposed to return too, but he dropped out after it emerged that he would be paid less than a quarter of Al Pacino's salary, despite having as much screentime as him.  The Godfather Part III suffers without the character of Tom Hagen.  In the first two film, he acts as the consigliere/family lawyer, but this voice of reason is sorely missing from this installment.  His abscence is explained away as an off-screen death, but I feel that this is an insult to such a great character.

Lastly, I really didn't like the ending.  After Mary is shot dead in an assassination attempt meant for Michael, the audience scee the Mafia Kingpin screaming in a primal rage, in another great performance by Pacino.  However, the film then cuts to Michael sitting on his own in Sicily before keeling over and dting.  This is where the film ends.  I felt that this was far too sudden and abrupt.  One second Michael is surrounded by his family cradling his daughter's body and the next he is all alone in a completely different place with no explanation as to what happened in between.  Sure, you can argue that this shows how Michael's immoral past has caught up with him, alienating himself from his family, but I found the ending too jarring and confusing.  I think it would have been far more powerful, if the film had instead ended on Michael's primal scream.

What was ugly: Call me old-fashioned, but the incestuous relationship still weirded me out.

Rating: Good.

So, all in all, this film is definitely not as good as its predecessors but it is still a good film in its own right, well except for the incest.  Either way, it can be said with utmost certainty that the Godfather started a very long mile of gangster films.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting review. by this time the Godfather brand is starting to look a little jaded, Tony