Each time a mob movie releases, one can’t help but compare them to the Godfather series. If there ever was a fictional crime family designed to strike fear, admiration and capture the audience’s collective imagination, then La Famiglia Corleone it is. Even in Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo’s universe though, there is a ranking order, and The Godfather Part III comes in a distant third. Puzo and Coppola too treat the movie with the embarrassment one reserves for an incontinent or ugly child. But, is it really that bad? Or, just terribly misunderstood?
As the DVD slides in and the movie begins to play, we’re back in New York City with a much older Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), who’s getting a papal award, from an Archbishop, in a church. And the roof didn’t come crashing down? How did this happen? During and after the last movie, he made a ton of money, feels a ton of Catholic guilt and decides to legitimize the Corleone name and business. At the lavish after party, much time is spent establishing this Michael Corleone 2.0. Kay (Diane Keaton) and he have divorced and have a super awkward reunion. Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia, as Sonny Corleone’s illegitimate son) shows up in a snit against Joey Zasa, the mobster now running Corleone territory, but Michael calms him down. Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) enters. All cool, because he doesn’t fear this new version of Michael and Vincent bites his ear, making it bleed. I kid you not! So, Joey starts a little war on the side with Vincent – he sends some people to kill him and they get killed instead. So, Joey’s now got beef with the Corleones.
Meanwhile, in the corporate world, Michael tries to buy the Vatican’s shares in some company, by giving $600 million to the Vatican Bank through Archbishop Gilday (who basically bankrupted the Holy See). Later he finds out that many influential parties are against the deal, because well, it’s the Corleones. This, and the Pope’s ill-health mean that the deal doesn’t go through. Also, I just figured out why nobody likes this movie: too much time spent in the boardroom, and not enough in bedrooms with dead horses!
So, in the interest of maintaining one’s interest in the movie, let’s move back to the mafia. Don Altobello (Eli Wallach), a smarmy old mafia chief moseys over to Michael and wants to get in on this corporate deal, and so do the other dons. So Michael gives them some millions each to keep them happy, and it works. Well, sort of. Zasa gets nothing, gets mad, announces that Michael is now his enemy, and storms out of the meeting with Altobello scuttling after him. Then, a helicopter hovers over the conference room, sprays bullets and kills everyone in the ensuing bloodbath. Yay for mafia movies!
Thankfully, Michael, Vincent and Al Neri (Richard Bright as Michael’s old bodyguard) escape. But, Michael winds up in the hospital anyway due to a diabetic stroke, but not before he figures out that slimy old Altobello was in cahoots with Zasa. Vincent kills Zasa and somehow, we’re now in Sicily about to hear Michael’s son, Anthony sing opera, while plans are being hatched by Michael, Vincent and Altobello. Vincent pretends to befriend shady Altobello and then pretends to befriend his even shadier friend, Lucchesi. And, now, we descend to corporate humdrum, because the scary Lucchesi is the mastermind behind a Vatican scam, along with Archbishop Gilday, and Vatican accountant Frederick Keinszig. Yawn! Thankfully, Altobello livens things up and hires two assassins to kill Michael. But, they kill an old friend of his instead and Michael gets weepy and promises never to sin again. This, I fear, was the moment, I realized I had joined the multitude of people who dislike this movie. Nobody likes a weak, weepy, whiny, self-pitying Don Corleone. Michael evidently agreed with me and made Vincent the new Don Corleone. As Connie (yes, Talia Shire is back) leads Michael through the doorway, he looks back to see Vincent’s men paying obeisance to the new Don. While Anthony is singing, Vincent, as the new don, goes on a killing spree, Connie poisons Altobello and Mary (poor, poor Sofia Coppola) is killed by the assassins. The end!
This movie was just all over the place, with the lack of connection between the NYC and Sicily storylines, the unnecessary Vatican stuff, dull boardroom drama and a painfully angsty Michael. I was just exhausted by the end of it. Maybe, it sucked because the first two were made just two years apart (1972 and 1974) and this one came way later in 1990 and hence, expectations were really high. Maybe it sucked because Michael Corleone and Al Pacino got old, and he couldn’t play Michael the way he did before, the way we wanted him to be. Maybe it sucked because the mafia in its old form didn’t exist anymore and even their dark, heavy suits felt outdated. The role of the mafia and the crime families is minuscule and while Michael is still kind of a gangster, he’s now a corporate gangster, and so, there isn’t as much gore as we’d like.
This was fundamentally Michael‘s story and had little, if anything to do with the first two movies. Coppola and Puzo admitted that this was an epilogue, a way to put Michael to rest; They originally wanted to call the movie The Death of Michael Corleone. Unfortunately, Michael Corleone, as we knew and loved, died way before the final scene.