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The Godfather, Part II

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Godfather, Part II

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Rated: R
RunTime: 200 Minutes
Release Date: December 1974
Genres: Crime, Action, Drama, Classic

*Also starring: Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Lee Strasberg, Michael Gazzo, G.D. Spradlin, Joe Spinell, James Caan

Review by Brian Koller
4 stars out of 4

The sequel to the 1972 blockbuster, "Part II" somehow manages to be an even better film than its predecessor, despite the absence of Marlon Brando and (except for a flashback scene) James Caan. While "Part II" did not exceed the box office gross of the original, it did better at the Academy Awards, winning six Oscars versus the three that "The Godfather" had won. These Oscars included some of the most important: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Author Mario Puzo and Coppola).

"Part II" is two hundred minutes in length, but the film seems to pass more quickly. Set in the 1950s, the story picks up soon after "The Godfather" left off: Michael Corleone has moved some operations to Las Vegas, but remains involved in New York organized crime. He also seeks to expand operations to pre-Castro Cuba, in partnership with aging, chronically ill Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg). He also has to defend himself against congressional hearings into his criminal activities. As in the first film, Michael ruthlessly punishes those who oppose or betray the 'family' (i.e. himself). Although his success continues, he also becomes ever more cold and distant: nearly a personification of evil. The only emotions that remain are the desires to punish those who have hurt him.

There also flashbacks of Michael's father Vito first as a boy, then as a young man. Vito (De Niro) immigrates to America, alone, to escape a vendetta against his family. Although he can be as ruthless as his son would later be, Vito also rewards with favors those who are on his side. Since the people he kills seem to deserve it, Vito comes off better than Michael does. De Niro's detached cool provides a welcome break from Pacino's relentless gloom, and it was wise of Coppola to shuffle the two films together despite the film's length and the disturbance of continuity.

Those who believe that Troy Donahue never made a good film stand corrected. Donahue has a small role as Talia Shire's fortune-hunting suitor. Michael V. Gazzo, who has a marvelously raspy voice, has a great supporting role as trouble-besetted mobster Frank Pentangeli. As in the first film, John Cazale and Robert Duvall give excellent performances.

"The Godfather Part II" also won Academy Awards for its score, co-credited to Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola (Francis' father), and for its sets.

Copyright 1997 Brian Koller

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