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
"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