The epic conclusion of the Corleone family saga takes a whole new level of politics, this time with religion being a central theme in Michael Corleone’s last chance to make things right.
It is the year 1979 and Michael Corleone has had his share of both power and struggle. The now sixty-year old head of the Mafia has decided to semi-retire and go the right way. Making numerous donations to charity, this has earned him the title of Commander of the Order of Saint Sebastian. At an event after the ceremony, Michael is met by Vincent Mancini, his illegitimate nephew from deceased brother Sonny. Vincent has been feuding with Michael’s replacement in the family, Joey Zasa. Zasa has brought drug trafficking in the “family” much to Michael’s chagrin and when Zasa attempts a hit on Vincent, Michael may not be impressed by his temperament, but sees the loyalty and brings him in.
Michael has learned the Vatican Bank has had a major deficit and offers to buy the bank out in an attempt to save them by buying shares of an international company in Italy which would Michael the largest shareholder. The company approves but soon other bosses want in on the deal. However, Michael informs them that he no longer wants any “family” involvement in the business and declares that his replacement gets nothing while he pays the remaining mob bosses off from his business in Las Vegas. After an attack from Zasa and one of the surviving mob bosses, Michael suffers a stroke, prompting Vincent to prove his loyalty to the family by doing the unthinkable but at what cost and how will it affect Michael’s attempt to finally go straight?
Originally meant to have ended the saga after 1974’s superior epic sequel, director Francis Ford Coppola decided on an attempt to resurrect his career after his 1982 film One from the Heart bombed at the box office. Thankfully, he re-teamed with Mario Puzo to craft the finale of the epic story of Michael Corleone. While it makes for a fitting ending, it isn’t with just a few dings here and there.
Despite the small “dings”, Al Pacino continues to show why he is truly one of the best actors in Hollywood today. It also helps that his character has aged and Pacino brings the age quite well in the vein of his character’s father. However, while it may seem like his character now is a re-hash of the original Godfather, we already see Michael in semi-retirement but knows he doesn’t have the power of sorts and in some ways, finds himself “replaced” by his only surviving sibling Connie, played with more strength this time around by Talia Shire; and his most trusted bodyguard Al Neri, reprised by Richard Bright.
Diane Keaton’s Kay also goes through a change in the saga from loving girlfriend and eventual wife to now strong divorced mother who we learn had taken custody of her and Michael’s two children as a means for Michael to protect them from any “family” business. The performance of Sofia Coppola as Michael and Kay’s daughter Mary is not too thrilling, but thankfully this young Coppola found redemption as becoming of independent films’ top directors today. However, kudos definitely goes out to Andy Garcia in his role of Vincent Mancini, the illegitimate son of Sonny Corleone and Lucy Mancini (the bridesmaid who Sonny had an affair with in the opening scene of the first film). Vincent is truly a modern-day version of Sonny, temper and all, yet at the same time, proves his loyalty to the family. While his relationship with Mary becomes somewhat questionable, Vincent truly wants to prove himself as a member of the family and the “family”.
The film truly ends as it may seem but it does have its twists. While it may seem as this was made to resurrect the career of Francis Ford Coppola, it succeeds and despite its small “dings” in the story, The Godfather Part III is truly a fitting conclusion to one of the greatest cinematic sagas in history.
WFG RATING: B+
A Paramount Pictures production. Director: Francis Ford Coppola. Producer: Francis Ford Coppola. Writers: Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo. Cinematography: Gordon Willis. Editing: Barry Malkin, Lisa Fruchtman, and Walter Murch.
Cast: Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, Sofia Coppola, Franc D’Ambrosio, John Savage, Richard Bright.