The Godfather: Part II
- Francis Ford Coppola
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Thursday, January 10, 2008
Vito’s 1920s story has the same values as those from the first film: even though his path is in crime, he’s a character we empathize with, and the script achieves this perfectly well by creating a strong antagonistic force in local Black Hand extortionist Don Fanucci (Gastone Moschin), who terrorizes Italian immigrants in New York until Corleone puts a stop to him. Robert De Niro is outstanding to say the least as young Vito; not only does he fill Marlon Brando’s shoes, making his absence bearable (or even unnoticeable), but he adds his own charisma to an already unforgettable character. Vito Corleone is, in a sense, one of the luckiest characters ever portrayed on film, existing on his own through the flesh of two great actors (plus Oreste Baldini, who plays him as a boy, not doing a bad job).
Al Pacino keeps growing into the darkness as Michael Corleone, the same way he did in the first film but now going much deeper and farther from redemption. Towards the end of the 1950s, Michael sees his world collapse as he finds tougher obstacles at every turn, and his response is to become even more ruthless, putting business before anything else, betraying his ethics, and becoming the exact opposite of his father. His performance is brilliant, one of the best of all time, as he mixes the personal difficulties of being a Don and the inexorable firmness that this profession requires.
The modern storyline deals with a larger-than-life plot to finish the Corleone Family, one that involves corrupt politicians, compromised witnesses and close traitors. It’s a complex and very strategic move involving several associates of the Corleones, including the powerful Jewish gangster Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), and Frankie Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo), a man who has been close to the family for several years. But Michael suspects there’s someone else involved, someone much closer… The great peril that the family meets through this conspiracy and the awful consequences that it spawns are legendary material.
The conjunction of artistic and technical elements is again top-notch, one could say improved from the first outing. Nino Rota’s score, for instance, adds haunting tunes to his already magnificent collection of musical pieces, achieving unsurpassable beauty. The art direction, set decoration and production design for both periods are perfection, and Gordon Willis’ photography does them justice.
The performances are an array of exemplary showcases which could be praised extensively for every meticulous detail scene by scene. Aside from Pacino and De Niro, there are some standouts, including American method acting patriarch Lee Strasberg as Michael’s greatest rival, Michael V. Gazzo as the terrified pawn, Robert Duvall as the smooth but chilling consigliore, Talia Shire as the long-suffering Connie Corleone, Diane Keaton as Michael’s wife Kay, and certainly John Cazale as the dim-witted Fredo Corleone, who finally speaks with a voice of his own.
This great classic film is one of my favorites, and not to be missed.
“You broke my heart. You broke my heart!”
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