The Godfather: Part III Movie Review

Why make another Godfather? While he gives it the old college try, Francis Ford Coppola fails to answer the question in The Godfather Part III, which picks up the saga of the Corleones decades later -- which finds Michael (Al Pacino) still unable to go legit. By 1990, he's near death (having heart attacks and whatnot), and he figures the Catholic Church is his best route to legitimacy. And wouldn't you know it, they're corrupt too. Well, you know, just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in...

While the film is well-acted (with the surprising exception of Diane Keaton reprising a role that wasn't all that interesting to begin with), masterfully lighted, and gorgeously photographed -- most notably the various shootout scenes -- it ultimately treads over old ground: material from the first two movies as well as repeating itself. This is most telling in the aforementioned shootouts -- the Atlantic City shoot-'em-up (courtesy of a helicopter outside) is horrifyingly grotesque (in a good way), but it seems more fitting for the histrionics of Scarface than the subtle and jaw-dropping one-two punch of Michael Corleone's assassination work at Louis' Italian-American Restaurant in The Godfather. Ultimately, the movie is simply one assassination after another -- and in Coppola's commentary track, he acknowledges this, placing much of the blame at the foot of the studio. It's also a testament to the amount of power that Coppola lost in the intervening decades -- again, something he acknowledges in the commentary.

Anyway, it's hard to put your finger on it, but the series seems to have lost something else between 1972 and 1990, when this final act was produced, as if Part III is designed to appeal to a younger audience more interested in blood, guts, and filthy language. Case in point: Coppola's use of "the family" in lieu of "the Mafia" has vanished in Part III, it's Mafia-this and Mafia-that. But worst of all is the problem of excessive gore. The Godfather showed us the real style in which a gangland hit could be done ("Leave the gun. Take the connoli." Or, "It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.") Here, the best Coppola can do is dress of a bunch of gangsters in disguises as priests and arming them with pistols. Interesting once seriously dull by the fourth time. Oddly, the film is also abruptly edited and, unlike its predecessors, it feels overly long (running nearly three hours, presumably to convince us of its importance).

And I won't go into it at length, but daughter Sofia Copolla's acting talents here are as bad as you've heard. Her scenes are laughable to the point of making any sequence in which she appears seem absurd. (On the commentary track, Francis's comments about his daughter are nothing short of disturbing -- in fact, the entire character lineup, says Coppola, is based on members of his own extended family.) And I don't know how else to put this except to say: Andy Garcia is not Italian.

Ultimately, the film is fine for ending the trilogy, but Part III is more of an appendix than an epilogue. Like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings fans, Godfather obsessives tend to overlook the numerous flaws in this chapter, but that doesn't mean it's anything more than material for a decent Movie of the Week.

Additional coverage of the Epic DVD set found in the review of The Godfather.


The Godfather: Part III Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 1990


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