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Customer Review

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic Sequel that is Equal to original, February 12, 2003
This review is from: The Godfather, Part II [VHS] (VHS Tape)
There are few films in cinematic history that are as revered as "The Godfather". There are so many memorable performances and so many memorable scenes that there's no dispute over it sitting in the #1 All-Time position on the Internet Movie Database's (IMDB) Top 250 list. Normally, trying to follow up such a cinematic masterpiece with a sequel is a foolhardy endeavor. The performances and brilliant storytelling tend to falter in the next movie. Seldom does a drama produce a worthy sequel. In the case of "The Godfather", it easily produced the 'sequel that is equal' with "...Part II".

Listed in the #3 slot in the IMDB Top 250 All-Time, "The Godfather, Part II" is an even more ambitious film than the original. So ambitious, in fact, that many fans of the "Godfather" films feel it may actually be superior to the original. I do not share that opinion. At best, I feel it is just as good as the original. At worst, it is just a tiny bit less of a film than "...Part I". I feel that, while "...Part II" is more ambitious, it lacks the grand scale of the original, especially in the scenes involving Michael Corleone's (Al Pacino) control of the family 'business' in the late 1950's. This is hardly a criticism, though. In fact, the lack of grand scale of this 'family' is symbolic of how Michael's chilling rule has wrecked was the family once was, instead of being indicative of lackluster filmmaking.

Director Francis Ford Coppola took a risky, but ultimately reward, approach to the story of "The Godfather, Part II". He wanted to tell the story of a young Vito Corleone's (played by Robert DeNiro here) rise to power simultaneously with his son Michael's fall from grace some 40 years apart. The two parallel stories have a marvelous interplay with one another. At no point, when film shifts from one time period to the other, does it feel forced or jarring. There is always some sort of connection, however subtle, between the end of a scene in one time period and the beginning of one in the other. The story of the young Vito Corleone begins in 1901 in Sicily at the funeral for his father who murdered for an insult to local Mafia chieftain. His mother, who lost her other son when he was killed trying to avenge his father, visits the chieftain, Don Ciccio, in an attempt to spare the life of her youngest, 'dumb-witted' son, Vito. When Ciccio refuses, she attempts to murder him and winds up being killed herself. Vito runs away and, with the help of friends of the family, avoids capture by Ciccio's men and is placed on a ship to America. A leap forward to 1958 shows Vito's grandson, Anthony receiving his first Communion and the subsequent reception afterwards at Michael Corleone's Lake Tahoe compound, where Michael receives visitors and requests for favors much the same way Vito did on his daughter's wedding at the beginning of the original "Godfather".

Each story, on it's own, is quite fascinating. Weaved together, they are magnificent. The tale of Vito Corleone shows his rise from being just another Italian immigrant to becoming one of the most powerful underworld figures in New York and the strengthening of the Corleone family. In contrast, the tale of Michael Corleone shows the disintegration of his family and his 'family' as a result of his cold, iron-fisted leadership and paranoia over any betrayals, either real or perceived. The very end of Michael Corleone story shows the depressingly haunting image of Michael sitting amongst the fallen leaves of fall with only the 'button' men around him in the compound, as he has pushed away every single person who was close to him. It's a tragic ending of Shakespearean proportions in direct contrast to the seemingly boundless future that seems to await the Corleone's at the end of the Vito Corleone story.

As with the original "Godfather", the performances in "...Part II" are nothing short of spectacular. Pacino chillingly portrays Michael Corleone's continued decent into evil. The progression of his character from the war hero who wanted nothing to do with the family business (in "...Part I") to the most ruthless of mafia leaders (in "...Part II") is truly disturbing. Pacino makes Michael the embodiment of pure evil. Not even his wife or his children (or even his brother) are safe from his wrath. The fact that he didn't win a Best Actor Oscar for this performance is almost as criminal as the Corleone family business. Robert DeNiro gives an equally accomplished performance as a young Vito Corleone (who was played by Marlon Brando in the original movie). The mannerisms and demeanor that DeNiro brings to his portrayal of a young Vito leave the audience completely convinced that this is how Vito looked and acted at this age. Unlike Pacino, though, DeNiro was not overlooked for his performance and won an Oscar for Best Support Actor. There are other remarkable performances throughout the film. Among them are Robert Duvall reprising his role as the loyal, but wary, 'adopted brother' Tom Hagen; Lee Strasberg (the creator of "method acting") as Michael's nefarious business partner, Hyman Roth (and target of Michael's famous phrase, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer"); and John Cazale as the weak, easily-manipulated Fredo Corleone who gets himself into trouble way over his head.

Few sequels are able to match the acclaim and accomplishment of their predecessor, but "The Godfather, Part II" manages to achieve this in epic fashion. While I still hold to my claim that the original "Godfather" was the better of the two films, there is no doubt in my mind that this exists as one of the 10 best films of all-time.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 26, 2010 11:22:35 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 26, 2010 11:23:09 AM PDT
jack english says:
great locations....................(jack english/location manager)

Posted on Jun 26, 2010 11:24:59 AM PDT
jack english says:
it was a wonderful experience working as the "location manager", on "godfather, part2"....& watching coppola's production team work their magic..............je
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