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The made for TV movie "Bonanno: A Godfather's Story" from 1999 tells the fascinating story of true life Italian-American Mafia boss Giuseppe "Joseph" Bonanno, perhaps more known as "Joe Bananas". We get to follow Bonanno through his very long life, born in 1905 he was still alive when the TV movie was made (he died in 2002). The TV movie is listed on the IMDb as 170 minutes long, but the version I saw on Hallmark Television was divided in four episodes and about 360 minutes long. The first two episodes gives a realistic and insightful description of the conditions of many Italian-Americans in New York during the first decades of the 20th century, the last two episodes concentrates instead on the intrigues and the power struggle in the US Mafia from WWII until the late 1960s. It is very well done and entertaining throughout, even though it is made in an almost semi documentary fashion. By following Bonanno's fascinating life and crime career we also get to meet other interesting protagonists of the US Mafia such as Salvatore Maranzano, Joe "the Boss" Masseria, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joe Profaci, Buffalo's Stefano Maggadino, Chicago's Al Capone and Sam Giancana, New Orlean's Carlos Marcello and Tampa's Santo Trafficante Jr. We also get to learn more about the mob's support of Politicians such as Franklin D Roosevelt, John F Kennedy and NYC mayor Robert F Wagner. The actors are all very good, particularly Tony Nardi who plays Bonanno for most of the third and fourth part. Edward James Olmos is also quite good as Don Maranzano. You notice that a great part of the cast is Canadians of Italian origin, since their Italian pronunciation is superior to most US actors of Italian origin. Among the negative parts of the TV movie is the glorification of the protagonist, which is however common to most films dealing with the US Mafia. Here is it even more evident, perhaps because the movie is produced by Bonanno's son Bill. It is for example heavily underlined that Bonanno is an anti-fascist, that he supports the US Democrats by ideological reasons, that he opposes Cuba's Batista and that he reflects thoroughly before ordering any murders. We must however remember that he committed a lot of criminal acts and like most mobsters was against Mussolini not because of democratic beliefs, but because the Fascists clamped down on crime. Neither has it been proved that the Mafia, as suggested in the movie, was involved in the murders of journalist Carlo Tresca in 1943 and JFK in 1963. You shouldn't compare this TV movie with Coppola's "The Godfather" which is fictional, but partly based on the true events described in Bonanno's story. Mostly however the TV movie is a great deal more faithful to real events than similar products and it is greatly recommended to anyone interested in the history of New York's Italian-American Mafia. As a mini series made for Television I would give it an "above average" rating.
You could say I'm biased a) because my grandparents were Sicilian and
b) because I love the genre. I also have a screenplay about my
grandparents' story, and I see sections my own script magnificently
produced in many scenes of this movie.
Some comments are negative because they claim the movie "glorifies" criminals. Personally, I don't agree with that view. In any event, regardless of the value judgments one might pass, this movie is full of merit for many reasons.
It is a wonderful time piece, taking us from Sicily of the early 1900s to the US of the 1990s. The sets are wonderful, the wardrobe outstanding. And the actors are excellent, except for the man playing Joe Masseria, who I think overacted a bit. Although, perhaps that's what Masseria was like.
The script, the critical element that truly makes (or breaks) a film, IMO is also very good. In addition to telling the story it has to tell, it includes a bonus. And that is small tidbits of "universal wisdom," if you will.
- The importance of one's word. The movie evokes a time when that meant a great deal, in contrast to current times.
- The importance of never forgetting those who have lent you a hand in the past, and expressing gratitude for it by returning the favor when the opportunity arises.
- Maxims such as "When it's your life that's on the line, you can only trust yourself".
Perhaps a 10 is a tad too generous, but I'd give it no less than a 9.
The reason it gets a 10 is as kudos for having produced a great script. Great scripts of all genres need to be produced, and not the garbage that keeps getting cranked out. The saying goes, "you can have a bad movie with a good script, but you can't have a good movie with a bad script." In this case, we have a great script and great production, which equals a great movie.
Very well done acting and directing. This is a cross between "The Last Don" and " Godfather 2".One large plus for this production is that it is claimed to be a true story of Joseph Bonanno. With a better music score to create mood, it could have been a rival for both Godfather movies.
This movie have 4 parts and every is around 170 minutes long. Its based on true story of life of Joe Bonanno and it is telling all how he did see. So in some events we can notice that we heard different about it. Movie make you tied up for chair till the end, i think it is possible to watch all 4 in a row, and not notice i watched 2 in a row and 2 next day in a row. Acting in movie is OK in some scenes awesome but in general could be bather, but this movie is not about acting or special effects and glamor, this one show real thing and story is key to this movie. So the one who look for same spectacular Rambo/matrix/titanic movie you can skip this one. Good thing in movie is that follow the main story so you will not have long and boring love scenes or any different interrupt with something not important to crime business of Bonanno.
The true life story of an American mobster. If you're a fan of "The Godfather," then this film might be worth watching as it's alleged that Mario Puzo borrowed from Joseph Bonanno's life story. You can see many similarities from "being chased out of Sicily," to "the extravagant wedding," to "the confrontation of the local made man who's collecting with the up-and-coming godfather," etc. Other than that...fudgetaboutit! Told through the cliché flashback, Martin Landau's voice-over narration is excruciating. Director Michel Poulette should have taken notes on how Coppola handled flash-backs in "GF2." Not that the story is all bad--just long! It reads more like a documentary. Then what about this whole issue that these men are "bound by honor," yet the Bonanno's sell out to create this Hollywood tale? Peter Bonanno said he wanted Hollywood to show the truth instead of a fictionalized Mafia movie. Excuse me? What about "Casino?" or "Goodfellas?" or "Gotti?" or...you get the idea. Looks to me like these ex-Mafia gents aren't greasing the politicians anymore, but instead Hollywood producers to make themselves appear like American icons. Fud-get-about-it!!
So many people have seen Mario Puzo's the 'Godfather' and Terence Young's 'The Valachi Papers ' that the famous families of all the gangland characters of the 1920s' and 30's are very familiar household names to audiences everywhere. Thus this serious film directed by Michel Poulette, called " Bonanno: A Godfather's story " should come as no surprise to anyone watching the movie. The story is a multi-generational tale as recalled by Joseph and William Bonanno. They were the Father (Martin Landau and Costas Mandylor) and son heads of the Bonanno crime family in New York. Beginning with his birth in Italy, emigrating to America and later ruling as one of the Five Families in New York, Joseph relates his life as part of the Rise and Fall of the Cosa Nostra. Audiences are towed along on a historical ride as the two relate their ties with all the well known bosses, and key family heads like Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano, Joe Masseria, Don Ciccio Joe Profaci, Albert Anastasia and Joe Valachi. Other notable figures also surprise audiences like Joe Sr., John and Robert Kennedy. Through four hours of vivid narration, we see how a single life touched so many during the heyday of the gangster, adding key elements to historical assassinations and murders. It's a great film, albeit, a tad long, nevertheless, Martin Landau is a superb choice for the centerpiece of this Classic movie. ****
I found parts of this movie rather slow, especially the first part; the second part seemed to go a lot faster, but it's not totally clear to me as to why one part was faster than the other. I somehow managed to find it enjoyable. The acting was good, the writing was good (yet vulgar). There was also another good side to it: it was easier to understand than say, the Godfather movies. You knew who was on whose side, etc. All in all, the movie wasn't half-bad.
Hollywood has turned the Mafia in to a production line of output
ranging from the banal to the excellent and despite some good acting
and a reasonable script (much of which is - for a change - true!) this
"home entertainment" effort has to fall slap bang in the middle.
The script is not only obvious (all of the checklist boxes end up being ticked), but spends a lot of time trying to create a pastiche of the best of other people's work. The Godfather being the most obvious, but there are other references too. I won't bother naming them. Nevertheless it is a good taste borrower! The producer seems to set a quota for gunshots and murder (one at least every twenty minutes?) and the ending is weak and "so what?" I am told there are various versions of this production so that maybe that is just the version I have seen.
Gangsters don't make money they take money. Usually by fear. Some seem more in to the murder and mayhem side of the business than making money. They were the ones that were the first to go (in real life and here). "You can't make money with a gun in your hand" says Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano at one stage. One of the smarter gangsters, although all things are relative. He was a skilled white slave trader and a drug dealer before being bundled home to Italy.
The old school "moustached Pete's" were picked off by the new bloods who wanted the power and the money for themselves and to break free of the straight jacket of Italian/Sicilian power (rarely doing business outside themselves). The young Turk knew they needed to be allied with other groups (most notably "the Jews" who knew how to launder money) and this is at least referenced and acknowledged. What isn't made so clear is that most immigrant groups had their own Mafia's - but most of them made their money and went legit. And why not? Who wants to die in jail?
Joseph Bonanno was a ruthless man prepared to kill if needs be , but not an unfair or stupid one. His story was tragic in that he could have made money in the over ground world and he showed a special skill in avoiding getting killed. With a little bit of luck attached, naturally.
Despite the range of respectable names and three actors in the title role (Bruce Ramsay, Martin Landau and Tony Nardi) there isn't the charisma or the talent to bring us in and feel anything. We are - merely - passive observers in a life we are glad not to have lead. The people shown here were born in to a cruel world but their only mark was to make it crueler.
If you can't get enough of the gangster genre that will be better than watching Godfather 1 & 2 for the tenth time and it is even better -- as basic entertainment -- than the horrible misfire that was Godfather 3.
its about joseph bonanno a smart sicilian boy who escapes the sicilian army and comes to america for a new life but ends up being a bum in america until he becomes a made man and eventually the don. its a great movie to buy it, its worth the money
Propaganda from the Mafia, in this sense it might be viewed as a dark comedy. It gets countless details wrong, especially every scene where the Sicilians are drinking coffee, incorrectly. One can forgive the mixed cast, it is after all, an acting exercise. However, that this gangster, this author could present such lies, denial, and drama as a substitute for truth is in fact a moral crime, an extension of the guilty mind making dirty lies. Who can even believe this story? Edward Almos is always a pleasure to watch, so there is that. Otherwise, to whatever extent this is in fact a "true" story, it is pathetic. And, I live in Sicily. Sicily does not even have a "j" in their alphabet. I have never, and you never will meet a Sicilian named Joe. The facts, props, names, history and reality have been changed, I would assume, to protect the otherwise empty nonsense of this film.
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