The Godfather Part II


When last we saw The Godfather part II (Al Pacino, DICK TRACY), he was in a room, closing a door. Nobody knows what happened inside that room, probaly some gangster shit. But THE GODFATHER PART II picks up years later with Michael Corleone now living in Las Vegas. Remember, he sent poor Robert Duvall there to stake out some territory, well apparently that went well. It seems there is some mafia roots in modern day Las Vegas. Huh, go figure.

Now, part 2 is even more epic than part 1. This one actually has time travel in it. It skips back and forth between The New Adventures of Michael Corleone and The Young Vito Corleone Chronicles. Hell it goes all the way back to the motherland. Remember that villa where Michael hid out in part one, then he married a girl with no nipples and watched her get blown up? Turns out that’s Vito’s childhood hood, and that place Michael lived is where the OG Godfather lived, and killed Vito’s mom.

The Godfather: Part IIObviously Copolla knew that although THE GODFATHER was a classic gangster movie, and probaly the greatest of all time, it was still missing something. He had Al Pacino in there, before SCARFACE and CARLITO’s WAY and, I don’t know, DEVIL’S ADVOCATE or something. But he didn’t have Robert Deniro. Copolla could sense that Deniro would be in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, GOODFELLAS and CASINO, and almost in GANGS OF NEW YORK if you count Daniel Day Lewis acting like Robert Deniro as actually being Robert Deniro. So Copolla beat those chumps to the punch, he threw out that dead weight, Marlon Brando, and replaced him with Deniro as the young Vito Corleone.

It’s fun to see Deniro playing young Brando and even doing an imitation at times. Meanwhile, in a completely different era, Pacino continues with the hard ass performance as Michael, and it reminds you of how great he used to be, in a totally different way, before SCARFACE. I love him in Scarface because he’s so over-the-top, he’s like a cartoon character. He’s constantly yelling and he has that ridiculous accent. That’s the guy I usually think of when I think of Al Pacino. But here he’s usually quiet, it’s all in the cold stare and the confident presence. The way he sits there with his legs crossed very gentlemanly, but you know this guy is not a gentleman. His scariest moments are when he obviously knows something but doesn’t say it, like in the scenes where he’s figured out that his brother Fredo had something to do with the assassination attempt. Don’t get me wrong, I like over-the-top Al Pacino as much as the next guy, but it’s nice to be reminded of the more subtle actor he once was.

Robert Duvall is maybe a little smaller of a character this time around, but he does get to be the substitute godfather for a while. Congratulations Robert Duvall, you’ve earned it. Also he gets to use his lawyering skills big time, at a congressional hearing. I hope in part 3 they get to have a landmark Supreme Court case.

The jealous and untrustworthy Fredo is a huge part of the story here. The actor is John Cazale. Watching him in this made me think “That guy was in a bunch of good shit in the ’70s, whatever happened to him?” Well it’s a sad story my friends. I assumed he probaly had been in all kinds of shit since then but he actually died of bone cancer in ’78. This is his entire filmography: A short called THE AMERICAN WAY, then THE GODFATHER, THE CONVERSATION, THE GODFATHER PART II, DOG DAY AFTERNOON and DEER HUNTER. How’s that for a track record? Damn, a short career in movies but he sure made his mark.

Alot of people consider GODFATHER 2 to be the best sequel ever made, even better than BLADE II. Some even consider it better than the original. Best sequel? I can see that. But better than the original, I don’t think I agree. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great fuckin movie. And I like the epic feel. But I think it’s so ambitious it can’t really click as perfectly as the first one. You got these two storylines, jumping back and forth in time, showing two entirely different eras and generations. You got the o.g. mafia in Sicily and immigration, arriving at Ellis Island and getting started in crime. You got Las Vegas in the early days and the old house in New York two owners later and Cuba on the eve of the revolution and the Corleones testifying before the US Congress. I mean jesus they might as well throw in the Trojan War and the invention of the printing press. Maybe skip ahead a thousand years and show the Corleones on Mars. It’s all interesting, it’s all great, but it’s alot to swallow. And as far as I can tell, the two time periods don’t really have a strong thematic connection. Maybe if I watch the movie a couple more times I’ll realize I was missing it, but at least right now it doesn’t seem like the two storylines say much about each other. They’re just two separate stories about the same family.

THE GODFATHER PART I was an epic too but by comparison it seems streamlined and sleek. You got the don getting shot, getting sick, and eventually dying, and at the same time you got his goody-goody son discovering his destiny is in the family business and transforming from WWII vet to the motherfucking godfather part II. That’s what it boils down to so it’s more mythic.

Plus the first one has Marlon Brando. I didn’t mean what I said earlier about him being dead weight. That was a test to see if some of you fucks would nod your heads in agreement. You better not have. It was a trick. Marlon Brando rules.

Anyway the part of PART II that seems most mythic to me is the story that starts it off, the murder of young Vito’s family by the OG godfather and his escape to America. It’s so great in so many ways. In one sense, it shows how all this violence we saw in part 1 is a direct consequence of violence that happened decades ago on another continent. How the ways of Sicilian criminals were spread across the world. The Corleones wouldn’t even be in the US if Vito didn’t have to hide out to save his life. But the really exciting part is that as soon as they kill his father, you know that there will be revenge. The godfather even says it himself, he means to kill young Vito because if he doesn’t, he will grow up and some day want to avenge his father. So even though Vito escapes to America and has to grow up and turn into Marlon Brando, you know at some point, some way, he’s gonna come back and find that motherfucker and tie up some loose ends. So there is this great anticipation. And when it finally happens, the guy is so old and pathetic that it’s kind of sad.

You know, the more I write about what happened in the movie the more I think about how great it is. Better than the original or not, it sure is something. I don’t know man, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that THE GODFATHER PART II is a truly great movie. take that, suckers. TRULY GREAT.


This entry was posted on Thursday, May 11th, 2006 at 1:15 pm and is filed under Crime, Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

16 Responses to “The Godfather Part II”

  1. The thematic connection is in the way it mirror’s Vito’s rise to power with Michael’s continuing spiritual downfall.

  2. To follow up to onthewall’s comment in the other thread – I’m actually not sure which of these two Godfathers I like better. In many, many ways, this absolutely blows Part 1 out of the water – there’s individual scenes – the “I know it was you” stuff, the abortion confession scene, the final flashback with the surprise cameos – that are individually more gripping and powerful than anything in Part 1. Pacino is even better, which I didn’t think was possible. Characters that were under-served in the first one like Fredo and Kay, have more to do here that retroactively makes their thin characters feel more rounded.

    But then the things I don’t like about this one I REALLY don’t like – starting with the De Niro stuff. I mean, yes, it must have been amazing and innovative at the time. I’m sure audiences had no idea what a prequel even was, or the fact that you could intercut such a thing into a sequel with fancy transitions between time frames. That’s all well and good, but watched in 2018, the Vito stuff is kinda dull and uninteresting. I can’t believe De Niro won an Oscar for this, since he alternates between a broad Marlon Brando impression that’s clearly dubbed, and classic “De Niro” mannerisms, sometimes within the same scene! (I know that’s unfair to judge him by acting like the future version of himself, but it’s unavoidable – sorta like when you show someone Leaving Las Vegas in 2018 and instead of thinking “wow Nicolas Cage is really doing an incredible portrayal of a drunk person!” they say “Wow Nicolas Cage is sure acting like Nicolas Cage”.)

    Vito’s Rise to Power just seems kinda rote and uninteresting – there’s no Machiavellian power plays or anything that makes him seem like the character we know from the first one – his whole story seems to be…he doesn’t pay the big mob guy what he wants, and the mob guy admires his balls, and offers him a job. But then Vito shoots him literally 5 minutes later and then somehow next time we see him he’s basically The Godfather. It just feels a little underwritten, even though I’m sure Coppola and company must have took the day off after writing “and then we’ll have De Niro go “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse!” (Which I admitted I completely smiled at since that’s such a 2018, Solo-esque thing to do)

    There’s also even more of that Godfather bloat (3 hours and 22 minutes????), the plot is still kinda muddled and confusing, but I’m still glad I saw it. I’m looking forward to Godfather III now (which I saw as a kid but had no idea what was happening). I’m sure it will have a more “modern” pace and I know it runs a full 45 minutes shorter than this one, so I’m a little worried I’m going to be THAT GUY who likes it the most out of the series. I guess we’ll see.

  3. This might be compete heresy, but if you can find THE GODFATHER COMPLETE SAGA, which re-edits GF1 and GF2 back into chronological order and adds some additional scenes, you might really enjoy that. (Not the TV version which cuts out all the violence, of course.) Yes, I KNOW that thematically the DeNiro segments are supposed to act as counterpoints to Pacino’s behavior, but the time frame jumping really takes me outta the narrative flow of the flick, and I feel like the additional DeNiro scenes flesh in that part of the movie quite a bit.

    neal2zod, I hope you enjoy GF3. I feel like it’s ripe for a reappraisal. Sofia’s not that bad, and I really don’t know if Winona Ryder would’ve worked in it anyway.

    Another flick due for a reappraisal from the same year? THE EXORCIST 3, which I just watched over the weekend and dug much more than I expected. What do you say, Vern? Now that you’re done with the TWILIGHT series, how about doing all of the EXORCIST flicks and both seasons of the TV show?

  4. “Dad?!” *death collapse*

    Is still one of the most hilarious things ever.

    Pacino’s screams right after are the redeemer. Everything Michael did in the trilogy coming back to him at thst moment and the pain is conveyed greatly by Pacino.

  5. Alright, now having finished The Godfather Trilogy, I’ll have to admit – there are PARTS of Part III that I think are among the best in the series. The “Michael confesses” scene, the Michael taking Kay around Sicily stuff, the Star Trek Into Darkness helicopter attack – just really strong, powerful scenes, definitely heightened by the history and familiarity of the characters. If Part II was a pioneer in terms of Hollywood prequelizing, this has got to be a pioneer in the Rocky Balboa-style delayed sequel, not to mention the Force Awakens-style “next generation takes the baton from the older generation you grew up with” reboot. And as expected, the moderately faster pace and the shortest runtime in the series helps. Pacino kills it, as always – it’s a perfect blend of “quiet, introspective Michael Corleone from Godfathers I and II” and “LOUD, MEGA-ACTING AL PACINO”. You get the best of both worlds here.

    Unfortunately there’s giant problems that can’t be overlooked, and I hate to state the obvious but Sofia Coppola is at the top of the list. I agree, Mr. Shemp, that original choice Winona Ryder probably couldn’t have pulled this role off either (I’m actually having trouble thinking of someone who could, even though it’s not a particularly tricky role or anything). But hoo boy, is Sofia awkward and unconvincing here. Whether it’s the permanent Billy Idol sneer on her face, her distinct lack of chemistry with Andy Garcia (including those lethargic kisses that seem to hit every part of the face other than the lips) or the porn-star style line delivery, she really pulls you out of the movie every time she shows up. I think I mentioned before that the decade’s other most-hated performance (Jar Jar Binks) actually kinda saves The Phantom Menace – he’s not good, but the movie would be even more dull and unwatchable without him. Sofia has the opposite problem- the movie around her is generally solid and impeccably made; it needs her key role played by someone with acting chops a little higher than “sports star guest-hosting SNL”. There’s other problems too – the plot is even MORE hard to follow than the confusing plots of the last two movies, Eli Wallach and Joe Mantegna are surprisingly not very good (there seems to be a total decline in quality control here), and I dunno if this hot take might blow you guys away – but George Hamilton is not as good an actor as Robert Duvall. Not sure if you guys knew that or not.

    Still, I’m glad I finally finished this trilogy and I’ll most likely watch it again, maybe even in that chronological order cut you speak of. And I’ll probably make my hypothetical kids watch it fairly young so they can appreciate it removed from the hype and the imitators. I’m sure they’ll love it.

  6. neal2zod, there are absolutely some parts of GF3 that rank right up there with the other two. In addition to what you mentioned, I’m also a fan of:

    * the party sequence at the beginning of the movie which is on par with the parties in the first 2 movies
    * the sequence where Andy Garcia takes out Joe Mantegna which justifies him being in the pic (“ZAZA!!” BANG! )
    * Talia Shire’s Lady MacBeth impression
    * this one’s “murder all the bastards in the last act” sequence
    * Garcia’s change from the hotheaded Sonny’s boy to Michael’s disciple by the end of the picture
    * the cinematographying – it’s beautiful to look at
    * and Eli Wallach, who was Tuco for crying out loud, so he gets a lifetime pass from me.

    Here’s what I think Coppola was going for with casting Sofia as Mary: he wanted somebody in that part who was complete innocence, and who stood 1000% apart from the Mafioso world. No deceit, no guile, no corruption, not even a little tiny bit – therefore, no “acting” of any kind, in contrast with everybody in GF1 and GF2, who (let’s face it) are some of the greatest performances of all time. (John Cazale, we still miss you….)

    So Coppola is in rehearsal with Winona Ryder. She’s doing the lines. She’s “acting”. He says “Give me less”. She continues to “act”. He says, “Nope, I want less.” Repeat over a couple of weeks, and suddenly Ryder is out of the picture because of “exhaustion”.

    Coppola looks over at Sofia and feels warmth, love, compassion, innocence, all the qualities that he wants out of the character, and he says to her, “Hey, you’re in the GODFATHER THREE”, and she says, “Uh…. what?” and he says, “YES! JUST LIKE THAT! YOU’RE MARY!” And that’s how I think that happened.

    What happened with George Hamilton being in the movie, I have no clue. All I know is that Duvall is in THE JUDGE with Robert Downey Jr. but NOT in GF3. You tell me how the hell that happens.

  7. I think I like Sofia in GF3 the same as Sage in Rocky V. Their fathers are clearly so happy to have them in the movie you can feel it. And it’s not like home movies. They made real movies. Ain’t no other dads making home movies like Coppola and Stallone/Avildsen.

  8. Didn’t Ryder get sick and that’s why she had to drop out at the last moment? Her and Coppola still wanted to work together and then Ryder brought him the script for DRACULA and that’s how that came about.

    I’m generally in favor of 3 btw. Not being as good as 1 & 2 isn’t a negative.

  9. Yeah, Ryder checked out of Godfather 3 because she got sick. There was speculation that this was due to exhaustion. She was really overworked at that point.

    Sofia Coppola isn’t great in it, but is she THAT bad? I tend to think she was the Jar-Jar of that film–a weak element who became the scapegoat for peoples’ inability to articulate their general dissatisfaction with the movie.

  10. For me I guess she isn’t too bad because everyone else is so good, so maybe if everyone else was bringing less to the table she would have been exposed a bit more. I think Shemp’s rationalization to her getting the role is dead-on (and hilarious). The IMDB trivia page for this goes a bit wild with the speculation as to who might have been in it. One I read is that they were going to set the film in present time, make Pacino older, cast De Niro in the Andy Garcia role and Julia Roberts as the daughter. Another one is that Frank Sinatra (who infamously didn’t like the first two but had changed his tune at some point) was the first choice for the Wallach role.

  11. I just watched PART III a few months ago, and really went into it wanting to believe that everyone was just an asshole and being unfair over the nepotism… but yeah, Sofia is absolutely a disaster. Not just basic “George Hamilton’s readings are a little flat” bad, but yes, Jar Jar level destabilizing. I don’t want that to be true, and she’s gone on to be an excellent director in her own right who has absolutely moved beyond this one acting role that I’m sure she only did to help out her dad. But yeah, it’s definitely that bad. I blame Francis more than Sofia, though, because any other director than her dad would have seen that the performance was not working and helped her out. It’s a thankless, underdeveloped part anyway (and Ryder would have probably been a distraction more than a help) but it did need a real actress.

    Other than that, Part III is pretty good, though. It’s a little disjointed, but it has tons of great scenes and it’s consistently gorgeous. I agree that Wallach is actually kind of not so great, but he gets a lifetime pass, so fuck it. Mantegna’s pretty good, though. And it probably got him the role of Fat Tony on The Simpsons, so a net gain for society there. I like the seedy Vatican politics, they’re pretty ballsy and effective, and it adds a nice new dimension to things. And Michael’s death is brilliant, exactly the kind of understated overstatement that makes this series so good.

    As far as Duvall goes, wikipedia says: “According to Coppola’s audio commentary on the film in The Godfather DVD Collection, Robert Duvall refused to take part unless he was paid a salary comparable to Pacino’s. On an episode of Inside the Actors Studio, Duvall said he understood that Pacino was the star but felt insulted by the difference in their salaries, saying: “if they paid Pacino twice what they paid me, that’s fine, but not three or four times, which is what they did.” When Duvall dropped out, Coppola rewrote the screenplay to portray Tom Hagen as having died before the story begins and created the character B. J. Harrison, played by George Hamilton, to replace the Hagen character in the story. Coppola stated that, to him, the movie feels incomplete “without [Robert] Duvall’s participation”. According to Coppola, had Duvall agreed to take part in the film, the Hagen character would have been heavily involved in running the Corleone charities. Duvall confirmed in a 2010 interview that he never regretted the decision of turning down his role.”

    It’s not like Tom Hagan exactly has much of an arc in the movie or even in the series, but I think Coppola’s right that Duvall should have been there, and it feels incomplete without him. They should have just paid him what he wanted for a series this iconic. You’re gonna cheap out on THE GODFATHER PART III? Come on.

  12. Guys I just saw GOTTI today and no other gangster movie will do now.

  13. As I have grown out of hate-watching stuff, I’ll avoid GOTTI but I sure find it fascinating just how bad it is and what it means for the gangster movie as we know it.

  14. I’m mostly over that myself but ‘the hype’ got me curious. It’s just a regular horrible GOODFELAS-wannabe but what pushes it over then edge into something special is the bizarre soundtrack.

  15. I’m just surprised that GOTTI was directed by the older son from UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER.

  16. I had the misfortune of watching his other movie, maybe one of the worst ESPN 30 FOR 30’s ever, BIG SHOT, mostly because of his insistent narration. The story itself is engaging enough to watch (about a guy who conned his way into owning the New York Islanders), but he flagrantly abuses the documentary tradition of putting himself on screen.

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