Mark Wingardner

The Godfather: Part II

Year: 1974
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo

This is NOT the greatest sequel of all time, in fact I find myself at times having a hard time even saying that it is a good movie.  I think this movie shows many characteristics of sequels gone horribly wrong.  For example the Clemenza character having to be written out of the story because Richard Castellano decided to be an asshole. Sometimes when a movie is really successful certain people get it in their heads that they have more power than they really do and unfortunately Castellano fell victim to that. This is a movie of great length, too great if you ask me.  In fact, when people ask me about this movie I tell them that this is one of the worst ones I have ever seen and it is so long and boring that I want to scratch my eyes out.

This movie checks in at 200 minutes. That’s three hours and twenty minutes….My question to you is “who the hell has that kind of time?” This is considered one of the greatest movies ever made, are you kidding me? This movie is unbearably long and all events at the present time were so relentlessly BORING. The Michael story doesn’t even make much sense if you ask me and I am a mafia fanatic.  If I can’t sit through this movie as the movie/mafia fanatic I am then I have to believe all those other people out there claiming it is so great are just lying to themselves. This movie isn’t epic; it’s the apocalypse of sequels.

OK, it’s not that bad and I do love the flashback scenes because they were part of the original book and they were great. I just think the continuation of the story in the present was awful.  It would have been better had the Clemenza character still been part of the story, but not if he turned informant. Unfortunately Richard Castellano, who played the part in the first film, proved too difficult to work with early in production so his character was cut entirely. If I remember correctly it had something to do with him wanting a different writer for his role specifically, a completely unrealistic request for a small time actor. The replacement part of Frank Pentangeli was awful in my opinion, and I hope it doesn’t mirror anything they actually had in mind for the Clemenza part.  The bad impression he gives starts early when he is completely hammered at the party for Anthony’s coronation and then drunkenly belligerent to Michael. He doesn’t get much better after that and it just seems stupid for the all powerful Corleone family to have such an incompetent person at such a high level. A guy in his position should never be the kind of guy that would become a government witness.  A guy in that position would be too proud to kill himself and he would never be allowed to do so, the mob would make an example of him.  Suicide is too easy of a way out for a man who breaks Omerta. His death in the end is anticlimactic and a waste of what should have been an important figure in the family.

For some reason when I think about this movie I only see Al Pacino sitting there, doing nothing but working on that Godfather gaze. He is great in the role but this time around he bores the hell out of me more than anything.  Al Pacino is Michael Corleone but he is so secretive in this film that it is annoying. He tells nobody what he is actually doing and his actions are so vague it’s hard to tell who exactly the bad guy is. To this day I still don’t know who the old guy that shadows Michael the whole movie is, the fact that they never explain that drives me crazy. If anything the man who shadowed him should have been Al Neri and we should have known who he was.  After nearly being killed in his own home I think it is a bit ridiculous that Michael travels with only one bodyguard who looks old enough to be his grandfather.

I also specifically have a problem with the execution of Hyman Roth. Roth wasn’t a bad character and he is based on real life Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky, which is really cool. His execution was stupid because Michael’s Capo Rocco Lampone is gunned down after the hit.  This is just stupid, that isn’t how it should have been handled and I think it was a waste of an important character in the Godfather world.  The mob wouldn’t entrust a suicide mission to such a high level guy, that kind of thing is passed down to the Button Men. Had he not been killed it wouldn’t matter, but I liked the Rocco character. Clemenza may have made a hit in the first film as a Capo but that was different.  Michael was the new Don with one Capo who had already betrayed him; it was an opportunity to prove his loyalty in that case. The Capos are high ranking men in the organization and one of the many buffers for the Don.  These guys generally don’t do the hits; they pass them down making more buffers that keep the Don from getting in trouble.

I didn’t always have such strong feelings about this movie but having read both sequels to the novel by Mark Winegardner I think this sequel fails by comparison.  Winegardner did an incredible job mimicking Mario Puzo‘s style and tone.  He wrote a really interesting story about the Corleone family and I think it was just so much better than what they did with the films.  Winegardner’s book picks up immediately after the first film ends and covers the years before and after this film.  It just kind of bypasses the film and incorporates it into the story.  It parallels history very well by going farther with the Fontane/Sinatra character and a new group of characters obviously based on the Kennedys.  It goes deep into the mafia world and the dynamics of the Corleone family as well as several other major families throughout the U.S.  I wasn’t high on this movie before reading those books, but afterwards I can barely stand to watch it.

Ok, I wrote everything above this before re-watching the film.  I am watching it now and at only 25 minutes in I can clearly see that I was far too critical of it.  It does deserve a certain level of respect, but I do stand by most of what I said.

I have finished the movie now, and it took me nearly all freaking day to do so.  This movie isn’t as bad as I make it out to be, but it is long to the point of being a flaw.  This movie should have been split into two pieces and released as a sequel and prequel. It is so long that boredom is inevitable and to be honest the climax in this one just doesn’t deliver like the first one.  I implore all Godfather fans to read The Godfather Returns and The Godfather’s Revenge if you want some excitement from this series. If you think this movie is worth the 3 hours and 20 minutes it takes to watch it then by all means please leave a comment and argue your position.  I am interested in the thoughts of someone who thinks it is, but I don’t know that I will ever give it that much time again. It will take longer to read the books, but you will get a lot more out of the time you invest.

NEXT MOVIE: The Godfather: Part III