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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Godfather: Part II can be found here.
The Godfather: Part II tells two stories in two different timelines. One timeline begins in 1901 and tells how nine-year old Vito Andolini (Oreste Baldini) emigrated from Sicily to become Don of the Corleone crime family in New York. It ends in 1925 when Vito (Robert De Niro) returns to Sicily with his wife and four young children—Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and Connie—in order to kill the man who killed his parents. The second story begins in 1958 as Vito Corleone's grandson Anthony (James Gounaris), son of Michael (Al Pacino) and Kay (Diane Keaton) Corleone, makes his First Communion and ends about a year or two later when young Anthony, his uncle Fredo (John Cazale), and Al Neri (Richard Bright) go fishing. The movie then ends with a flashback to December 1941 as the four Corleone children, their families, and adopted brother Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) are planning a birthday party for Vito. The two stories are told concurrently with the earlier timeline as flashbacks.
The Godfather: Part II is based on The Godfather (1969), a novel written by Italian-American author Mario Puzo [1920-1999], source of The Godfather (1972), the first movie in The Godfather franchise. Puzo and director Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay for The Godfather Part II. However, only the story of Vito Corleone (now played by Robert De Niro) came from the novel. The continuation of Michael Corleone's story was written specifically for the film by Coppola and Puzo. The movie won the 1975 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. There is also a third Godfather movie, The Godfather: Part III (1990).
It's strongly advised that the movies be viewed in sequence. This second movie serves as both a prequel and a sequel to the first movie, which covers the years from 1945 to 1955 and portrays how and why Don Vito Corleone moved his family's business from New York to Las Vegas. The first movie also provides many of the references to loyalties and disloyalties in the family and describes how Michael Corleone came to take over his father's position as Don. Having this information from the first movie makes it a lot easier to follow the second.
When Vito arrived at Ellis Island in New York City in 1901, he was asked for his name. Vito didn't reply, so an interpreter checked his immigration papers and found that his name was Vito Andolini from Corleone, Sicily. Consequently, the immigration inspector (a foreigner himself) gave him entry into the U.S. as Vito Corleone.
Coppola and Puzo originally intended for the character Peter Clemenza (Richard S. Castellano) to return and to focus on his troubles managing the New York family and his betrayal of Michael Corleone. However, Castellano demanded too much money to return and, in addition, wanted his girlfriend at the time to rewrite his dialogue. Rather than give in, Coppola wrote out Clemenza, explaining that he'd died in the intervening time between Parts I and II, and replaced him with his Lieutenant, Frankie Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo). Clemenza is still in the movie, albeit as a younger man in the scenes set in 1917, played by Bruno Kirby.
It may have been implied that Fredo betrayed Michael by opening the bedroom drapes to give Johnny Ola's (Dominic Chianese) hitmen a better view into the room. It's been suggested that once Fredo realized that the hitman had attempted to kill Michael and Kay, Fredo killed the gunmen. (According to Fredo's wife, their bodies were found right outside her and Fredo's room.) This is unlikely because Fredo gets the phone call from Johnny Ola informing him of what happened. Fredo seemed completely unaware of the situation. Fredo later explains to Michael that Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) and Ola had assured him it was not going to be an actual hit, just a ruse to frighten Michael into being more cooperative in his business negotiations. That much is probably true, although Fredo also makes it clear that he relished the opportunity to operate on his own, independent of Michael. To Michael, Fredo's act of betrayal is straightforwardly unforgivable, regardless of motive and regardless of whether Fredo had been deceived.
Al Neri (Richard Bright). As Hagen arrives to talk with Senator Pat Geary (G.D. Spradlin) to explain his situation, Neri appears in the doorway and Hagen beckons with his head for him to go away. This is corroborated on the bonus disc of the newly-restored Godfather release on Blu-ray/DVD, where a "Crime Organization Chart" is given explaining all characters and their crimes. Under Neri, it states that he killed the prostitute that was with Senator Pat Geary. It is also confirmed by Coppola himself during the director's commentary track on the DVD. Coppola had previously received much criticism for allegedly "glorifying the mafia". On the commentary, he mentions that the scene with the dead prostitute is to remind the audience that members of the Cosa Nostra are as ruthless as they are honorable. It shows that they would not hesitate to have Neri kill an innocent girl just to put pressure on a senator.
There are several possible reasons. Though not explicitly stated, it is implied that Roth wanted revenge for the death of Moe Greene (Alex Rocco), a friend of his who was assassinated on Michael's orders in the previous film. He is visibly angry with Michael when they are discussing Greene. A second reason might be that Michael is getting too much power and influence at the expense of other powerful mobsters, including Roth himself, so they try to kill him. When that fails, Roth tries to cripple Michael's business through Pentangeli's testimony at the senate hearing. Lastly, Michael is reluctant to invest in Roth's Cuban business, whereas Fredo seems much more interested. Just as in the first film, killing the Don or otherwise removing him from his seat of power, will make his next in line Don—in this case, Fredo—who seems much more inclined to continue business with Roth and who can be easily controlled and manipulated.
Probably just to see if he could. Vito eventually turns out as the head of his own crime organization, because he is the one to realizes that power cannot only be based on violence alone; it depends as much on persuasion, gaining respect and loyalty. He knew that Fanucci's (Gastone Moschin) reign was primarily based on bluffs and intimidation, rather than a large, strong organisation backing him (there was even a deleted scene showing Fanucci getting attacked and wounded by a group of street kids, which showed how weak Fanucci actually was). Killing Fanucci would solve most of his problems, but it would be the easy way out. Vito wants to see if he can bargain with Fanucci, and persuade him to cut down on his demands. In other words: he does not simply want to give in to Fanucci's intimidation tactics, but prove that he dares to stand up to him from a vulnerable position. The tactic works, as Fanucci respects Vito's candor and boldness. It also has the advantage of giving Fanucci a false sense of security, making it easier to catch the Don off guard for the assassination. In case there would have been a police investigation, Vito could easily claim (and the people present in the restaurant could be witnesses) that he and Fanucci had a truce and, therefore, had no motive to kill him. Since the murder was committed during the fireworks ceremony and Vito had properly disposed of the gun, there would be no way that he would have been caught.
To act as a primitive suppressor (silencer) and to conceal it so he could take his time and aim, which is why Fanucci asks, "What have you got there?" If he had seen a gun in Vito's hand, he likely would have shut the door and ran.
Honor is the principle of this subject. Roth betrayed Michael and therefore must die by the hand of the Corleone family. If Roth died of natural causes then he would have won/gotten away with it. Michael also seems to doubt that Roth is truly dying: as they plan the hit, he says "He's been dying of the same heart attack for 20 years."
First, the code of "omerta". The code originated in Sicily, long invaded and ill-treated by foreign governments, and states that one should never, no matter how they or their families are harmed, go to the authorities. Avenging the harm done was instead in the hands of the offended. Violation of this was considered the ultimate form of disgrace. This belief had much to do with the formation of the mafia and its ultimate growth and staying power. Michael brought Frank Pentangeli's older brother Vincenzo (Salvatore Po) from Sicily. It showed to Frank that his testimony to the Committee would be heard by his brother and family, disgracing him and his family. Thus, he changed his story, refusing not only to implicate Michael, but anyone.There are two theories as to why Frank did this. The first is that having Frank's brother show up at the hearing with Michael was a veiled threat that insinuated the brother would be killed as a result of the testimony. Frank assumed his brother would be safe seeing as he was a lonesome shepherd in Sicily with no ties to the mob. Michael was showing him this wouldn't be the case. A second theory is that Vincenzo is a powerful Mafia chieftain in Sicily. Frank tells Hagen afterwards that Vincenzo is "ten times tougher" than himself, that he's "old fashioned" and that he could have had his own crime family if he moved to America. Vincenzo's icy stare at his brother during the testimony was a threat that Frank's family would be killed if he testified. In an early draft of the script, it was mentioned that Frank had a mistress and child in Sicily under the care of Vincenzo, but he would kill them should Frank testify against Michael. Michael tells Kay afterwards that what happened at the hearing was a personal matter between the brothers.
The movie ends in a montage that shows the sequence of events following Mama Corleone's funeral. (1) Roth returns from Israel and is taken into custody by the police. Rocco Lampone (Tom Rosqui) shoots Roth dead. In turn, Rocco is shot dead by the police while trying to escape. (2) Frank Pentangeli is found dead in his bathtub, having slit his wrists. (3) Neri, Fredo, and Anthony are about to go fishing when Michael calls Anthony back, leaving Neri and Fredo to go out alone. As Fredo says a "Hail Mary", Neri shoots him in the head when he gets to the part about "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death." The final montage has Michael reflecting back to 1941 as the four Corleone children plus Hagen are planning a birthday party for their father. Sonny (James Caan) introduces Connie (Talia Shire) to her future husband Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo). Michael announces that, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he has joined the Marines, shocking everyone, especially after the strings Vito had to pull to get him a draft deferment. Vito then arrives and everyone except Michael rushes off to greet him. In the final scene, Michael sits alone in the family garden at Lake Tahoe.
Though the film itself doesn't provide a definitive answer, the video game adaptation posits that a Corleone hit squad (led by the player character) invades the Rosato estate and kills both brothers. Given Michael's low tolerance for treachery, it is highly probable that something along those lines did indeed happen to them.
The reason is mainly to keep his honor, and also to be sure that his family will be taken care of. When he collaborates with the FBI telling them abut the Corleone family, he also reveals his implications, the crimes he had committed for the family. This confession gives him immunity and allows him to avoid doing time. However, he breaks his agreement with the FBI and denies all he had previously said. The alternative to this honourable death offered by Hagen is, then, to be thrown into jail, probably getting killed there. His widow would have to move out of the Corleone house and find someplace to live, while Frankie's kids would be shamed as the sons of a traitor, just like his brother Vincenzo. That's why he accepts. Frankie said it himself that his life wasn't worth a nickel.
The whole assassination attempt, including Pentangeli's escape at the end, was planned by Hyman Roth to make Pentangelli believe Michael wanted him dead so that he would turn against him and collaborate with the FBI in the Congressional investigation. Keep in mind that Michael figured out that the attempt on his life at his home was orchestrated by Hyman Roth. But when he talks about this with Roth, he says that he believes it was Pentangelli. Michael then asks Roth if he'd be upset if he had Frankie killed. Roth simply replies with "He's small potatoes." Michael then goes to see Frankie and reveals that he knows it was Roth who betrayed him. Roth either figured this out or planned to make the false attempt on Frankie and use Michael's name before Michael could make the "actual" attempt.
Viewers are split on whether or not Fredo knew he was going to be killed. Some viewers point out that Fredo was always shown to be naive, scared and weak. When Michael confronted Fredo in Cuba, he ran away and went into hiding. It was only upon promise he wouldn't be harmed that he agreed to sit down with Michael and tell him what happened. Even though at the end, Michael pretended to forgive Fredo, if Michael suggested that Fredo go fishing alone with Al Neri, Michael's personal hitman; Fredo likely would have been suspicious and not have gone along with it and gone back into hiding. It was only because Fredo and Neri were supposed to go out fishing with Michael's son, but at the last minute, he was called back. So Fredo thought he was safe. Others point out that, when Michael told Anthony at the last minute that they were leaving, Fredo was left in the boat with Al Neri. Fredo had thought he was safe when Michael said that he forgave him. However, Michael had a history of "forgiving" people (such as Carlo) so that they would stay close, giving him an opportunity to kill them. Once he realized he was going out on the lake with the family's most trusted killer, Fredo probably realized he was going to be whacked and accepted his fate.
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