Top 100 Movie Review: No. 013 – The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Ranked 013 on the IMDb Top 100 Movie List (as at May 2017).
Watched movie during the month of September 2020.

Cast: Al Pacino (Michael), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen), Diane Keaton (Kay), Robert De Niro (Vito Corleone), John Cazale (Fredo Corleone), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone), Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), Michael V. Gazzo (Frankie Pentangeli)
Directors: Francis Ford Coppola
My rating: 9.0 / 10

In 1901, the family of nine-year-old Vito Andolini is killed in Corleone, Sicily, after his father insults local Mafia chieftain Don Ciccio. Vito escapes on a ship destined for New York City, and is registered as “Vito Corleone” on Ellis Island.

In 1958, during his son’s First Communion party at Lake Tahoe, Michael has a series of meetings in his role as the don of the Corleone crime family. Frank Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo), a Corleone capo, is dismayed that Michael refuses to help defend his territory against the Rosato brothers, who work for Michael’s business partner Hyman Roth. That night, Michael leaves Nevada after surviving an assassination attempt at his home.

In 1917, Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) lives in New York City with his wife and son Sonny. He loses his job due to local don, Fanucci, insisting that his nephew work there; Clemenza invites Vito to unwittingly take part in a burglary.

Michael (Al Pacino) suspects Roth (Lee Strasberg) planned the failed assassination on him, but meets him in Miami and feigns ignorance. In New York City, Pentangeli attempts to maintain Michael’s façade by making peace with the Rosato family but they attempt to kill him. Roth, Michael, and several of their partners travel to Havana to discuss their future Cuban business prospects under the cooperative government of Fulgencio Batista. Michael becomes reluctant after reconsidering the viability of the ongoing Cuban Revolution. On New Year’s Eve, Fredo inadvertently reveals that he knows Roth’s right-hand man, Johnny Ola, having previously claimed that they had never met and Michael realizes that it was Fredo who had betrayed him. That night, Michael has his bodyguard kill Ola, but before he can also kill Roth, he is discovered by police and shot dead. Batista abruptly abdicates due to rebel advances. During the ensuing chaos, Michael, Fredo, and Roth separately escape to the United States. Back home, Michael learns that his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) has miscarried.

In the past Vito has fathered two more sons, Fredo and Michael. Vito’s criminal conduct attracts the attention of Fanucci, who extorts him. Vito’s partners, Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio, wish to avoid trouble by paying in full, but Vito insists that he can convince Fanucci to accept a smaller payment by making him “an offer he won’t refuse”. During a neighbourhood fiesta, he stalks Fanucci to his apartment and shoots him dead.

In Washington, D.C., a Senate committee on organized crime is investigating the Corleone family. Having survived the earlier attempt on his life, Pentangeli agrees to testify against Michael, who he believes had double-crossed him, and is placed under witness protection.

In the past Vito is now a respected figure in his community and is approached for help by a widow who is being evicted. After an unsuccessful negotiation with Vito, the widow’s landlord asks around, learns of Vito’s reputation, and hastily agrees to let the widow stay on terms very favourable to her. Vito and his partners are becoming more and more successful with their business, “Genco Pura Olive Oil Company”.

On returning to Nevada, Fredo tells Michael that he has felt resentful for being disregarded; he had helped Roth, expecting something in return. He claims to be ignorant of the plot on Michael’s life and informs Michael that the Senate lawyer is on Roth’s payroll. Michael disowns Fredo but orders a capo to continue protecting him while their mother is alive. Michael is unable to reach the heavily guarded Pentangeli, so he sends for Pentangeli’s brother from Sicily, resulting in Pentangeli renouncing his previous statement; the hearing dissolves in an uproar.

Kay reveals to Michael that she actually had an abortion, not a miscarriage and that she intends to remove their children from Michael’s criminal life. Outraged, Michael strikes Kay, banishes her from the family, and takes custody of the children.

Vito, along with his family, visits Sicily for the first time since emigrating. He and business partner Tommasino are admitted to Don Ciccio’s compound, ostensibly to ask for Ciccio’s blessing on their olive oil business. Vito exacts his childhood vengeance by killing Ciccio after revealing his former identity, but as they escape, Tommasino is shot in the leg and suffers a permanent disability.

Michael’s mother dies. At the funeral, Michael appears to forgive Fredo.

Roth is refused asylum and denied entry to Israel. He is forced to return to the United States. Over the dissent of consigliere Tom Hagen, Michael orders capo Rocco Lampone to assassinate Roth. Lampone, posing as a journalist at Miami International Airport, shoots Roth dead before federal agents kill him. At the witness protection compound, Hagen reminds Pentangeli that failed plotters against the Roman Emperor often committed suicide and assures him that his family will be cared for. Pentangeli later slits his wrists in his bathtub. Al Neri, acting on Michael’s orders, kills Fredo out on the lake.

In the past the Corleone family gathers in their dining room to surprise Vito for his birthday. Michael announces that, in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, he has left college and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, leaving Sonny furious, Tom incredulous, and Fredo the only supportive brother. When Vito is heard at the door, all but Michael leave the room to greet him.

Michael sits alone by the lake at the family compound.

What’s to Like
Exploring the family history of the Corleone family, the acting, the tone of the film, the music and score.

What’s not to Like

The sequel to the highly regard Godfather is a rare film that sits comfortably with it’s predecessor and the first sequel ever to win a Best Picture Academy Award. The film achieved this by splitting the film into two parts, the first focused on the history of Vito starting as a child when his family is killed and he had to flee Sicily and start anew in USA.

The second part of the film explored the life of Vito’s son Michael who grows more and more like his father from the first film. Michael, who in the first film was reluctant to get into the ‘family business’ in this film lose his remaining morality and constraint becoming merciless in dealing with enemies and rebellious members of his family.

The stories are engaging and the acting is again first rate. The film doesn’t pull away from the violence of this lifestyle. I love history and this film pulls some real history into the narrative in particular the mafia involvement in Cuba.

Very engaging story and another must see film.

Academy Awards

  • Best Picture – Winner
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert De Niro) – Winner
  • Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola) – Winner
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material – Winner
  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration – Winner
  • Best Music, Original Dramatic Score – Winner
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role (Al Pacino) – nominee
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael V. Gazzo) – nominee
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Lee Strasberg) – nominee
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Talia Shire) – nominee
  • Best Costume Design – nominee

About Nathan

A World traveller who has so far experienced 71 countries (76 by June 2023) in this amazing world.
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