The Godfather Part II

Bottom Line: An offer you can’t refuse. Even better than the first part.

“I don’t feel I have to wipe everybody out, Tom. Just my enemies.” –Al Pacino as Michael Corleone

Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, G.D. Spradlin, John Cazale, Lee Strasberg, Michael V. Gazzo, Richard Bright, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire

1972’s original GODFATHER movie encased an interesting enough plot. Though the film introduced us to all of the Corleones, a Sicilian crime family, it seemed to focus primarily on Michael Corleone. We recognized Michael from the very start as the only good Corleone. He was the only one in his family to attend college, he fought in the Marines, and he wanted nothing to do with the violence in his family. Yet he was so close to his father, Don Vito Corleone. The first film depicted Michael’s time up to becoming the new Don after his father Vito had become unable to remain in that position. PART II takes an alternating role between a prequel and a sequel. It sounds a bit odd, but it’s actually more like watching a theatrical play with two acts that smoothly intertwine. The first act opens up in 1901, where we see nine-year-old Vito coming to America after his mother and father are killed by the Don of a different Mafia family. We learn that his surname was not initially Vito Corleone: he was born Vito Andolini, but his surname was mistakenly changed at Ellis Island to Corleone, the small Sicilian town from which he had come. The time period soon moves to the late 1910s and progresses through the mid-1920s to give a deeper back story to Vito (played by Robert De Niro in a much younger role than the previous entry’s Marlon Brando). The second act takes place only a few years after the original GODFATHER, following Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as the new Don. Here, we are familiarized with his attempts to increase the family’s power, as well as his wife’s attempts to avoid a criminal legacy.

Even today, it’s still practically unheard of for a film to be both a prequel and a sequel. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, because I actually find it to be interesting. THE GODFATHER PART II was a good example of a film that works perfectly this way. It occasionally works as an adaptation, expounding on the important flashbacks that appeared only in Mario Puzo’s 1969 Godfather novel, and not in the classic film adaptation. Otherwise, it takes liberty in constructing its own original plot that equally provides back story and continuation. These original points take up roughly 90% of the screenplay, a brave (not to mention successful) turn.

“Non mi interessa in cose che non mi riguardano.” –Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone

Don’t ask me how this film entertains so marvelously. Its predecessor had the same embellishment, but not as strongly. THE GODFATHER PART II is a whopping three hours and twenty minutes, but once an hour has passed by, it will only have felt like twenty minutes, if that. Furthermore, every scene is absolutely worth its place here. Take one scene out and the plot loses its timeless value. The first I would jump to praising for making this film endure every single minute it possesses is Robert De Niro. Let me be clear: Marlon Brando was great in the original film, as a thoroughly intriguing and convincing representation of the title character. Though Robert De Niro is the one who actually becomes his character in this film. He doesn’t speak a word of English in all of his screen time, yet that doesn’t hold him back from seeming even more like a ruthless criminal than Brando did.

Other than the plots, THE GODFATHER PART II is very much similar to its predecessor. It reprises much of the subtleties that set the first film profoundly apart from any other crime drama: the quiet musical score (this time with intermixed pieces that sound even more Italian); the steady, easygoing pace; the cinematographic film-noir mood, with abundant silhouetting. If there is one aspect that does make this more interesting than the original, it certainly is the plot(s).

Postscript: I’m not using this film’s theatrical poster for my review mainly because it looks to me more like a poster for a spaghetti Western.

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25 thoughts on “The Godfather Part II

  1. Nice poster (and nice review!) Love the Godfather movies (still haven’t seen part III though). I’m one of the few people who prefer the first one to the second, but they’re both stunning. Loved the whole prequel/sequel thing and De Niro’s presence. The parade sequence is perfection.

    • Yeah, the poster is kind of an inside joke for those who have seen the film, so I’m glad you love it. Thanks. I’ve actually heard probably as many people say they like the first film more than the second film as I have vice-versa. I’d give both a perfect score, but I like Part II a little more than Part I. I actually didn’t know it was also a sequel until quite recently (like after I’d seen Part I); I just knew about Robert De Niro’s performance as a younger Vito which made it a prequel. Then I saw Part I and who Pacino played there, and I thought, “Wait a minute, if Pacino’s in Part II, it has to be two different time periods, right?” Then I looked it up and saw that it was apparently a prequel AND a sequel. Interesting.

      Side note: have you read the novel The Godfather?

    • Agreed. My favorite scene, by far, is when he enters an apartment to kill someone with a towel wrapped around his gun. Then the towel briefly catches on fire, which itself is an iconic image associated with this saga. πŸ˜€ Thanks for commenting.

  2. Nice review. De Niro really stands out here. your line “..who actually becomes his character in this film..” is the reason why he is one of the greatest actors. he becomes the people he plays. This movie is a classic. almost everytime it plays on tv, i stay with it regardless of what portion. About Godfather part 3, see it. it is still very good.

    • I really need to see more of De Niro. I loved him in a few of Martin Scorsese’s films, but other than those movies, the Meet the Parents movies, and this, I don’t think I’ve seen any of him. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Undoubtedly the best sequel of all time that it actually is about as good as the original, and that’s saying a lot since the first is my favorite film of all time. Great review, that A+ was well deserved.

    • I still have to read your review of Trust; thanks for reminding me, in fact, I’ll do it once I’m done with this comment.

      About Part III, I’ve heard two things: a) it’s not nearly as bad as people say, but not quite as good as Parts I and II, and b) it’s just plain disappointing. I’m DYING to watch it (it was called the epilogue to the series by FFC and MP, which makes me somehow even more curious), but I’ll certainly watch with low expectations. Just out if curiosity (yes, I’m a very curious person when it comes to films), what would you give it, using your 4-star system?

      • Well, I am torn between 3 stars and 3 and a half. I think in the end I would give it the latter. It was a very good movie. But not a masterpiece like the first two. The first time I didn’t like it as much because I was expecting it to be just as good or better than the second. When I saw it again I realized it was good. It does get a lot of hate, but definitely still a solid end to the trilogy (could have been better, but hey, it is what it is).

        • Thanks for clearing up. Your opinions and mine are usually similar (with the notable exception being Good Will Hunting, haha), so now I know what to expect. Plus, it was nominated for Best Picture, so it HAS to be somewhat good, unless it’s one of the Academy’s vital errors like War Horse. DX

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