The Godfather: Part III (1990) (R)
Coming almost two full decades after "Part II", "The Godfather: Part III" sees the conclusion to one of cinema's most famous and acclaimed series in supposedly despicable form. Though the movie gained some seven Oscar nominations, including "Best Picture", it won none and would go down as the low point in the series; but that's now how I see it, naturally.
"The Godfather" was a film about family and empire, "Part II" was genesis and infrastructure as well as racism, "Part III" brings us the most personal take on the family: religion, retribution, and redemption. For the first time in the series do we see the weight that the Corleone family feels and only now do we fully appreciate what it must have been like to live in a family such as this.
"Part II" served as a prequel and a sequel to "Part I" so in this way "Part I" is "Part III's" "Part II" and "Part II" is actually "Part III" to "Part II"...maybe that didn't make sense. The point being, we had to have seen the previous two movies for this one to work and the severed timeline in "Part II" makes for some interesting scenes in which we explore Vito Corleone's childhood in a much more detached sense than seeing Robert De Niro act them out.
"Part III" begins much later, as godfather Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is trying to wrestle with the idea of making "the family" legitimate. In the previous installment, he had to go up against the law and after many court hearings, he finally succeeded in gaining over them, once again proving that this family is virtually untouchable.
You can view "Part III" as the final moment in the downfall of the empire. "Part II" brought around its share of screw-ups, but nothing that was this intensely awful. Michael is competing with his father's way of doing business while he is also trying to pacify new blood that demands vengeance for every wrong move. Michael is struggling and the foundation he built himself up on is slowly crumbling out from underneath him.
Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) is a hot-headed young Italian who is Michael's nephew. He is so slick and so cool, or he thinks he is, that he begins to resemble someone who is almost dangerous to be around, as his lovers soon find out.
Mary Corleone (Sofia Coppola, Frank's daughter and the sole reason that people hate this movie so much) has stepped out in the limelight from Michael's shadow and now is instructed by her father to head up a charitable cause, which really has no place in the movie.
Michael wants the family to end on a high note, if it has to end at all, so he tries to pull a few strings and make legitimate money, but a lot of it. This dealings bring him face-to-face with God as he shakes hands and writes checks with the Catholic church.
Although the film is by far the most approachable of the three "Godfather" movies, it's also the wackiest. It doesn't seem to enjoy entertaining the possibility that the reach of the family is not infinite and not absolute. The most notable moments being a helicopter shoot-out and a plot to assassinate the Pope...ouch, maybe we shouldn't have done that.
But the direness and the darkness of it all is nothing if not partially convincing and Coppola's strength as a director never falters, even if he does scramble with the writing material a little bit.
But the "Godfather" movies always were a little bizarre, right? I mean the courtroom scenes, the massive shoot-outs, the police in the pocket, the connections...it's almost too fantastical to believe at some point. I don't care if it mirrors real life, it doesn't feel like real life to me. I'm not convinced. Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow with a horse's head in my bed...we'll never now. It's a tiny bed, so I doubt it.
As Michael beings to understand that things might not work out in the best possible way, his health start to plummet as well, leaving the family in a bind without a head. Vincent becomes the person to step up; but will his determination sink the family?
I think that the final thirty minutes of "Part III" are enough to forgive many of the faults with the movie, the stand-off nature and the length being still problems with the films. The ending is beautiful, operatic (If you'll pardon the pun) and filled with wonderful emotion. It's impossible for me to not be impressed with the final frames which, to my mind, close out a series in the best possible way.
It's not a perfect movie, not even good sometimes; but it does have a hell of a finish.
Posted by Micah Jones