I know, I know! Never have I come across such hatred for a film that didn’t involve George Lucas. I’m not going to try to convince you that this installment in the Godfather Trilogy is at least as good as the previous two. It’s not. Not by a fucking long shot. What I do want to touch upon is that the flick doesn’t deserve all the unbridled hatred. It’s not perfect, but it is an engaging and profound piece of work.
I don’t really know what audiences were expecting when The Godfather Part III was released, I was far too young, and in the pre-internet age when it was. But I don’t think people could have anticipated a film about the shady dealings of the Vatican Church, especially one that involves the Mafia. But it’s because of the story that I was so enveloped in its scope. This is around the time of Goodfellas, I can understand a more traditional take on the mob, but here director Francis Ford Coppola goes a more unconventional route, one that is alienating to the fans of the first two films.
I look at the story in this way, which makes it interesting to me, Michael Corleone wants to go legitimate with the family business, so he gets involved with the Vatican. The delicious irony of all this is that the Vatican is more corrupt than the Mafia ever was. In this regard, no matter what Michael does, no matter how hard he tries, he will always bring death and destruction to any vocation. Michael is of the old school way of thinking that you can buy redemption, and holy fuck did he learn that you sure as hell can’t do that.
Before I get into the glaring flaws that come with this film, let’s actually discuss the shit does work. Al Pacino rocks, you know it, I know it. He even manages to deliver some of the most memorable lines in the entire trilogy (the pulled me back in line in particular). The man is a fucking master, especially when it becomes clear that Michael can’t hold on to his empire much longer.
Oh, Andy Garcia. I truly believed he was Sonny’s bastard child. He is the comic relief, and sociopathic, but hey we like our heroes morally ambiguous. In a movie full of serious, professional characters, here’s a guy who loves to beat the ever loving shit out of people, especially Joey Zaza. You respect that.
The last character I have to bring up is the one that hardly gets mentioned by many people, Connie. Out of all the characters in this epic saga, she is the one that has had an arch comparable to Michael himself. Think back to when you first meet her… Very much a typical Italian housewife; out of sight, out of mind. But after her husband gets murdered by Michael for killing Sonny, she goes down a path of sex and booze. Which is understandable. But in Part III, the woman has become Lady Macbeth. But not to Michael, but to Andy Garcia’s Vincent. It makes sense, Sonny was always the one that tried his best to protect her (shit, it cost him his life) so she feels a duty to protect his son and guide him. Thinking about it, wow. She came really long way from abuse victim to cold blooded manipulator.
OK, time to stop dicking around and discuss Sofia Coppola. She was never, and I mean NEVER, going to win an Oscar. She wasn’t even an actress when she played Mary. I’m saying that she’s not the abomination to acting that everyone made her out to be. She’s not good, and that’s as bad as she is. The girl is really innocent, and sweet. It’s a real contrast to Michael. Admit it, you got a little choked up when she got killed in front of him. We’re all friends here, just admit it. It doesn’t make you an asshole.
While people love using Sofia Coppola as the scapegoat for the movie’s suckage, there’s a deeper problem. One that starts at the writing level. Tom Hagan. Yeah, he needed to be in this movie. He is crucial, especially when seeing the previous entries. I can’t excuse it, Coppola had a lot of behind the scenes problems (given six weeks instead of six months to write the script as an example), but even then, without Tom, you do have to ask, “Well, what’s the point?” Here I can understand the detractors, and it does keep it from feeling like a true sequel to The Godfather.
At the end of the day, I never felt that The Godfather Part III was this horrendous act of filmmaking. It’s flawed, yes. It’s got pacing issues, yes. Questionable performances, you fucking know there are, but that doesn’t shit on a dynasty of films. I just loved the idea of an irredeemable man trying to redeem himself by any means, which damns his soul. Paraphrasing Coppola himself, he felt the story ended with Part II, and this was just the epilogue. He even wanted the movie to be called The Death of Michael Corleone. It’s the only time I can think of that sharing a name with your predecessors can be detrimental to it’s reputation. Much like Mary.