Produced by: Paramount
Featuring: Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Andy Garcia, Talia Shire, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, Sofia Coppola, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, Raf Vallone, Franc D'Ambrosio, Donal Donnelly, Richard Bright, Helmut Berger, Don Novello, John Savage, Franco Citti, Mario Donatone, Al Martino, Vittorio Duse, John Cazale
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Running time: 169 minutes
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"Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in." Sixteen years after the second part of the trilogy comes the conclusion, although Francis Ford Coppola prefers to think of it more as an epilogue. Coppola wasn't particularly eager to make this film, but with his production company having serious money issues, he went ahead and did it anyway.
Using real-life events surrounding the Vatican Bank and the short reign of Pope John Paul I, Coppola weaves a tale that involves Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) now a legitimate businessman, still fighting to keep his family out of the old famiglia business. His nephew, Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), the illegitimate son of Michael's brother Sonny and his sister's friend and bridesmaid Lucy Mancini, has an issue with Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) who runs what used to be the Corleone family in New York. Michael doesn't want to get involved but reluctantly does so at his sister Connie's (Talia Shire) urging.
Michael has made at least an accord with his estranged wife Kay (Diane Keaton) to let their children go their own way so that Anthony (Franc D'Ambrosio) is free to pursue a career in opera rather than become the lawyer his father desires him to be. Mary (Sofia Coppola) is also free to pursue Vincent, although Michael disapproves of the union. And despite Michael's attempts to remain legitimate, his past will come back to haunt him in a big way.
While "The Godfather" was operatic in tone, "The Godfather Part III" is more soap opera than opera. Daddy Coppola is masterful at weaving multiple storylines into a crescendo, bringing them all together in a terrifying violent coda. He still shows that ability here, but this script simply doesn't have the power of the first two movies.
Still, this movie has Pacino at the top of his game, and while he didn't get an Oscar nomination for his work here, he richly deserved one. Here Michael is aging and his vitality is ebbing. He speaks in a gravelly voice roughened by time and tears, stooped with the weight of all his misdeeds. He may have gone legitimate, but he still carries his sins like anvils around his neck. The eyes of Michael Corleone are haunted by demons so horrible that thee and me could never imagine it. It is in the eyes that Pacino's performance truly becomes masterful.
He has some help. Talia Shire, often overlooked in the first two movies, becomes a black widow here. Connie Corleone sits in the shadows, weaving her webs, Michael's feminine support but also the demon of his lesser nature. She is the siren call of the Mafia life, the life Michael has struggled so hard to escape. Her machinations are central to the movie's plot, and help Shire give the performance of her career.
Garcia, who was so memorable in "The Untouchables," channels James Caan here, playing his bastard son with explosive violence and yet the cool and snake-like intelligence of a Corleone. You can see Sonny in the son, but that isn't all there is to Vincent. Garcia imbues him with loyalty and malevolence, violence and cleverness, but also love and respect. In many ways, Pacino and Garcia have taken the roles of Brando and Pacino from the first film, allowing Michael to go full circle.
Sadly, Sofia Coppola an excellent director doesn't fare well as an actress. It's not that she doesn't have talent in that department she actually delivers a decent performance. Unfortunately, the role and the situation both call for something better than that. She's a housecat among lions, having to put her performance up against some of the best in the business, and by comparison suffers badly. She doesn't have the screen charisma to give the role what it really deserved a performance that forces the audience to care about the character. We don't care enough by the end of the final reel. She was perhaps unjustly excoriated by critics and audiences alike, which effectively ended her career as an actress, which became a good thing we've gotten some good movies from her as a director. Still, I can't help but wonder how well she would have developed as an actress, had she not been kicked around so much in the press, which surely soured her on pursuing acting.
There are other problems with the movie as well the convoluted story line, Paramount's unwillingness to let Coppola make the movie he wanted (among other things, they wouldn't pay Robert Duvall a salary akin to what other actors in the film were making, so Coppola was forced to write out the character of Tom Hagen,) and perhaps most importantly, the movie simply wasn't able to hold up against two all-time classics. That's not to say that "The Godfather Part III" is a bad movie far from it. But expectations are sky high after the first two. If There hadn't have been the first two movies of the series, "The Godfather Part III" by itself probably would be remembered with far more fondness.
It is worth seeing as a closing chapter in the series. There has been talk on and off over the years of a "Godfather Part IV," but if there is, it is unlikely Pacino or Coppola would be involved. With author Mario Puzo very much Coppola's muse for these movies having died, it isn't likely that another Godfather movie will ever capture the lightning, the way the first two movies did. When you take the three films as a whole, it is as epic a saga of an American family as has ever been made. There hasn't been it's like before and there never will be again. While the third entry in the trilogy may be something of a disappointment, it is still a good movie.
Read this review at Carlos deVillalVilla's website.