Last night's movie selection was the final installment of the Godfather Trilogy, "The Godfather: Part III."
I had heard various people say that the third one was a dog, not worth watching, not nearly as good as the first two, blah de blah blah. As Ken said, "Even if it's only half as good as the first two, it'll still be a good one!" I thought it was actually very good and liked it a lot. I found it a little more maudlin than the first two, but the intrigue was still there, the suspense was still there, and most importantly, Al Pacino as Michael Corleone was still there!
Warning: Spoilers comin' at ya!
It's the late 70's, and after a lifetime of Mafia dealings, Michael is a very wealthy man. However, his conscience plagues him, and he has decided to leave the Mob behind (the rigid structure is already crumbling) and devote his time and considerable money to philanthropy and legitimate business dealings. His son Anthony wants nothing to do with the mob life, and in fact, has decided to study to be an opera singer, to which Michael reluctantly agrees.
We are introduced to Vincent (nicely played by Andy Garcia), the illegitimate son of Sonny Corleone, and Vincent does want to be a part of the family business, and in a dispute between Vincent and Mafia lord Joey Zasa (a guy who adheres to the old, bloody way of doing business), Michael sees something of his own ambition as well as his brother Sonny's hotheadedness. Michael agrees to take Vincent under his wing. Vincent eventually begins a relationship with Michael's daughter, Mary, and Michael warns him to back off, but Vincent and Mary continue the relationship.
Business dealings take Michael to the Vatican, where a corrupt Archbishop has squandered millions of the Vatican's money in questionable endeavors. The Archbishop needs some money to replace the coffers, and Michael agrees to $600 million dollars in order to buy the Vatican's 25% interest in an international real estate holding company, which would legitimize the Corleone business and begin to clear the family name. However, Michael learns that there are many other players involved who oppose the deal, and begins to realize that there is graft and corruption everywhere...even at the Vatican.
Back in the States, Michael finds out that his his former Mafia buddies want a part of the deal. He arranges a meeting in Atlantic City, and gives them all generous payouts for their casino work over the years. They are appeased, except for Joey Zasa who gets nothing, and declares that Michael is now his enemy. After he storms out of the meeting room, a helicopter hovers outside the window, and proceeds to shoot and kill everyone, except for Michael, Vincent, and one of Michael's capos, all who manage to escape. At home, Michael speculates that Joey Zasa is small-time, and doesn't have the resources to pull off something like that, so there's someone bigger backing him. Michael says, "Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in!" The stress and aggravation affect him so badly that he suffers a diabetic stroke and is hospitalized.
While Michael is in the hospital, Vincent and Michael's sister Connie agree that there must be payback, and the hit is put out on Joey Zasa and his bodyguards. All are killed, but Michael is not happy, and knows that it is now an all-out war. He strongly cautions Vincent and Connie to never again do such things without his permission. They return to Sicily, and Michael concocts a scheme to have Vincent find out who was backing Zasa, and Vincent is successful. He learns of the plot to murder Michael, and wants to strike first. Michael warns him that if he takes that step, there is no going back. Vincent understands, and Michael passes the torch to Vincent, telling him his name is now Vincent Corleone, and he is Godfather. Michael has but one demand of Vincent: that he end his relationship, once and for all, with his daughter Mary. Vincent shows reluctance, but Michael tells him, "That is the price you pay for the life you choose." Vincent agrees.
Michael visits Cardinal Lamberto, the man who will eventually become Pope, and in the garden, he makes his first confession in 30 years, including the fact that he ordered the death of his brother, Fredo. As he breaks down in tears, the Cardinal tells him he knows he won't repent, but he gives Absolution.
Michael and his ex-wife, Kay, have made a semi-reconciliation, and she travels to Sicily along with Mary to see Anthony's operatic debut. As the opera unfolds, the murders commence, and we see these scenes interspersed with the opera. The hit man is unable to shoot Michael during the opera, but as the family walks down the steps of the opera house, celebrating Anthony's successful performance, two shots ring out. Michael is hit in the shoulder, but Mary, who is confronting her father for making Vincent break up with her, is shot in the chest, and as she slowly falls to the ground, she looks at Michael and says, "Dad?" As she dies on the steps, Michael screams in pain and rage.
There is a montage of scenes of Michael dancing with Mary...with his first wife in Sicily...and then with Kay. The final scene shows an elderly Michael sitting in the front yard of his villa in Sicily, the year unspecified. He slumps over, falls out of the chair, and dies. Alone.
I found it incredibly sad that he died alone, beaten and broken by the life he had chosen and its resulting death of his only daughter. I found it interesting that when he made Vincent the Godfather, he told him, "This is the price you pay for the life you choose." Michael could have been saying that about his own life, and he ultimately paid a tragic price for his life of crime with the death of Mary.
End of spoilers
Gosh, I'm teary-eyed thinking about it!
I told Ken last night, just as with Tony Soprano, you know he's a bad guy, even a killer, but you grow to like him.
I thought the underlying theme of the movie was about redemption, and Michael's wish for it. His efforts to get out of his life of crime, to legitimize the business and clear the Corleone family name, and his eventual confession were about his search for forgiveness. (Note his praying hands in the movie poster.) While he was absolved of his sins by the Cardinal, he was unable to completely break away from the life. Very sad.
The scenes in the Vatican looked quite real, so in checking IMDB, I found that indeed, there was filming at Vatican City, as well as Rome and Sicily. Just some beautiful shots.
While some have vilified this movie as not being nearly as good as the first two, I thought it was quite good. Some of the sentimentality of it struck a false note with me, but all in all, I enjoyed it a lot. It definitely makes me want to read the book, and that's always a good thing!
Next, I need to get my hands on a copy of "Goodfellas"!