"The Godfather Part III" (1990) Review by Marshall Garvey Rating (0 to 5): 4 Grade: B+ Starring Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), Sofia Coppola (Mary Corleone), Andy Garcia (Vincent Mancini), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone-Rizzi), Diane Keaton (Kay Adams), Eli Wallach (Don Altobello), Joe Mantegna (Joey Zasa) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola Produced by Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Fuchs, and Nicholas Gage Written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola Original music by Carmine Coppola Paramount Pictures 169 minutes Rated R for violence and language
When a series reaches its third entry, it's important that the film doesn't try to repeat what the previous movies had accomplished. A good example of a trilogy that doesn't succumb to this flaw is the "Star Wars" threesome, because the story is carried without repetition. A lesser case would be the "Alien" trilogy, which after two amazing entries by Ridley Scott and James Cameron was brought down by David Fincher's recurrent, stale "Alien 3". The "Godfather" trilogy, on the other hand, isn't science fiction, and with the 1972 and '74 films being what could be the two greatest motion pictures ever it's not likely that the third could match them.
Surprisingly, the gap between parts two and three was no less than sixteen years, although during then Francis Ford Coppola was not without success (in 1979, the year this film takes place, he made "Apocalypse Now"). After "The Godfather Part III" was released in 1990, it ended up receiving seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, but walked away with no awards.
For this review, I shall do the film justice by not comparing it to the first two movies. However, this does not push it into the sanctity of flawlessness, for despite its nominations it is not a classic. An excellent picture by all means, yes, but it's too heavy (and at the very end, incoherent) with the drama. I know it's not supposed to be a feel good film, and it's quite powerful at times. But towards the end it hammers you over the head with its dramatics, as if it's worried you're not disturbed enough. There's too much concern with echoing the other films, and as much as I hate to admit it there was an unintentionally funny moment. Altogether, though, Francis Coppola's effort is still solid, and Al Pacino and Andy Garcia also help in making the third entry in the greatest film saga a memorable one at best.
After Carmine Coppola's familiar score settles in and the title appears, the film opens with shots of what was once the Corleone family's Lake Tahoe in the 1950's. It's now 1979, and Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has drifted away from the mafia scene. He's more dedicated to his family, especially his daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola) with whom he runs a foundation to aid Sicily. Michael has become more of a businessman, and has strengthened his religious life by having himself christened in church. His spouse Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) sees this move as a way of covering up his dark past (he did, after all, have his brother Fredo murdered). Michael's own son Anthony (Franc D'Ambrosio) has gone against his will by giving up his career as a lawyer and starting one as a singer.
Even though he is separated from the mafia, Michael's troubles are far from resolved. Not only does his past haunt him, but his business associate Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) is running the old neighborhood of Don Vito Corleone poorly. Zasa is also having problems with his assistant Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), the child of Sonny Corleone. Like his father, Vincent has an uncontrollable temper, and isn't afraid to unleash it upon Zasa (when asked to kiss and make up by Michael, Vincent bites Joey's ear). This is only the beginning of Zasa's revenge: at a meeting in Atlantic City he learns that he's receiving none of the profit after Michael sold his Las Vegas casinos. He strikes, but Michael and Vincent escape.
Before this meeting, Michael learned from the Archbishop Gilday (Donal Donnelly) of Rome that Gilday had been put in charge of the Vatican Bank. Gilday's church has a deficit of nearly $760 million to pay, and he panics. Michael, claiming that he has "no interest or investment in anything illegitimate", proposes to donate $500 million to the bank if he can gain entire control of one of the church's business shares: Immobiliare. It is agreed, and the transaction makes headlines in papers across the country. Michael has utter confidence in the deal; even Gilday tells him that his acquisition of Immobiliare will wash away his past. Still, his task of controlling Immobiliare not only ends up risking his own life, but ultimately those of the ones he loves.
The "Godfather" movies always seem to carry a special sense, which is both mesmerizing and haunting. Half of it is from Carmine Coppola's score, and the other is from the story of the Corleone family itself. With the first two movies being only two years apart, the story was closely knit, but with the third not coming until 1990 Coppola and Mario Puzo had a lot of gaps to fill in. The story for part three is undoubtedly the weakest, probably because Coppola's sense of powerful drama is mostly absent (there are a number of gripping scenes, though). The ending feels particularly bland and seems to forget itself, but I won't give it away (I mean, this is a "Godfather" flick after all).
Despite the flaws in the story, "The Godfather Part III" succeeds because of its performances. Andy Garcia, who received an Academy Award nod, is the best as the fiery and cocky Vincent Mancini (he also provides plenty of throwbacks to James Caan's Sonny from the first movie). Al Pacino is most effective, thankfully, because we can feel his exhaustion and desperation in trying to get away from the mafia. "Just when I though I was out, they pull me back in!" he seethes. Talia Shire, Diane, Keaton and Eli Wallach (who played one of my favorite movie characters of all time in "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly") help make the cast memorable too.
Sadly, there is a stain on the cast's velvet rug. That stain is Sofia Coppola, who despite being Francis's own daughter is completely out of place here. She sounds too much like a valley girl, and lacks any depth or conviction for her given role. It was originally intended that Winona Ryder would play her part, and indeed she would have been far better. Another blow to the film is the absence of Robert Duvall's Tom Hagen character, who at one point was said to have died sometime in the early 70's. Instead, John Savage plays his son Andrew, but his screen time is too limited to make up for Duvall, one of my favorite actors. Disappointing as it is to see him gone, though, it thankfully doesn't drag the film down. The rest of the cast is simply too good to allow that.
Some sequels tend to leave or throw away the elements of the other films they follow, and "The Godfather Part III" avoids that mistake. Actually, there are a few flashbacks to parts one and two (Fredo's death as Michael is christened, and memories of his first wedding in Sicily). These scenes manage to instill some chemistry, but the overall impact of "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II" isn't retained. I have to be honest though: I wouldn't have expected it.
So, all in all, does "The Godfather Part III" have its own distinction? Perhaps. Its story may be a bit weak, but it is saved by its cast, namely Pacino and Garcia. The late Gene Siskel said of it, "True, this chapter does not rank with the earlier films, but how many movies do?" After all, it is better than the one where Ripley is cloned with the queen in her... wait, different series.
This review is purely of my doing, and I do not copy off other reviewers.
So, what does this rating system mean anyway? *****-A masterpiece of filmmaking that should be seen at all costs ****1/2-A fabulous movie. An absolute must catch. ****-An excellent show. Be sure to see it. ***1/2-A good film. Recommended. ***-Decent movie that could be a lot better. **1/2-Average movie with a number of flaws. **-Pretty bad with a few saving graces. Instantly forgettable. *1/2-Bad. Don’t see it. *-As much fun as having your seat kicked for two hours. 1/2-Like drinking liters of cough syrup. Boycott it. 0-Death may come
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