Godfather Part II

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We're Bigger Than US Steel: The Godfather: Part II

Aug 3, 2001 (Updated Mar 16, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Action Factor:
  • Special Effects:

Pros:Acting, Screenplay, Photography, Editing, Score

Cons:None

The Bottom Line: Al Pacino puts in the performance of his career. Robert DiNiro shows how the family was formed.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

And when they were in the field together, Cain rose up and slew his brother. Holy Bible

"I don't want to kill everybody, Tom, just my enemies." In this, we have the thesis of The Godfather: Part II. We see the icy, cold ruthlessness underlying the razor thin veneer of respectability of Don Michael Corleone, brilliantly portrayed by Al Pacino, in this worthy successor to the smash hit The Godfather.

It is 1958 - several years after the ending of the first segment. Don Michael is holding court in his study, just as his father Don Vito once did, while a gala first communion party takes place in the garden of his palatial estate. The location is Lake Tahoe; the family has moved its nerve center to Nevada while still maintaining its underworld roots deeply in New York. Michael has hopes of expanding his empire in Las Vegas and beyond.

No longer the idealistic college-educated war hero he once was, Michael is now strictly business and will allow nothing, even his family, to stand in his way. He demonstrates his steely resolve by facing down a self-righteous US senator who thinks the Corleones are a likely mark for extortion. The uppity senator later comes to in a Corleone brothel with a dead prostitute beside him. Corleone lawyer Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) is there and offers to fix the problem. The grateful senator is unswervingly loyal to the Corleone interests from then on.

Unfortunately for Michael's plans, some of his family members are ambitious and some of his supposed friends are covert enemies. In this chapter of the life of the underworld crime family, Michael forgets that his true strength is indeed the family ties forged by his father, Vito Corleone. Between segments showing Michael's machinations to consolidate power in his own hands, Director Francis Ford Coppola inserted flashbacks showing the rise to power of Vito (Robert Di Niro) over the previous half-century. The Godfather: Part II ends with an alienated Michael whose ambition has destroyed his family and his own soul.

In The Godfather: Part II, unlike its predecessor, the words mafia and Cosa Nostra were used. Evidently times had changed enough where screenwriters Coppola and Puzo were able to use the dreaded words without fear of reprisal.

Acting is fantastic, with Pacino's dead-black empty eyes showing the nothingness inside where his soul once existed. Relatively unknown Robert Di Niro won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his sympathetic portrayal of the young immigrant Vito, who, oddly enough, began his life of crime by stealing a carpet!! Robert Duvall, again did a wonderful job as the non-Sicilian member of the inner circle, the self-effacing consiglieri Tom Hagen. John Cazale similarly did a splendid performance, fleshing out the character of weak-willed brother Fredo. An interesting new character, crime czar Hyman Roth played by famed Actor's Studio founder Lee Strasberg is a text-book example of how to play a savory part. Talia Shire and Diane Keaton again play the neglected Corleone women, and very well, too. The bit parts are spot on and well edited.

Photography, by Gordon Willis, is masterfully dark, befitting the bleak and terrible subject matter. The film has sepia tones in some scenes, helping to show the transitions between the Vito and Michael segments of the story, which run from the beginning of the twentieth century through the 60s and spans the globe between the old world and the new. Sets and costuming are evocative of the various eras, especially New York's Ellis Island, Little Italy, Cuba, and Sicily, with plenty of old locations and automobiles to set the scene for the action. Film editing is also a strong point with many double exposures and dissolves, and a quick cut murder scene where all Michael's enemies are destroyed. The Carmine Coppola/Nino Rota score is perfectly suited to the visuals and helps bring the scenes to life.

Although the Best Actor Oscar eluded Al Pacino once again, his performance is certainly among the best ever captured on celluloid. His haunted face as he sits alone in his compound after the deaths, alienation, or slaying of everyone he holds dear is an indelible screen image and will be long remembered by anyone who has seen The Godfather: Part II.

Fans of the gangster genre will also enjoy Goodfellas, Scarface (1983), Carlito's Way, Public Enemy, Little Caesar, and the original Scarface, starring Paul Muni.

The Godfather: http://www.epinions.com/content_33840467588

The Godfather, Part III: http://www.epinions.com/content_92908129924


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening

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