Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Time to talk about an exceptional one-of-a-kind continuation of a masterpiece that acts as both a prequel with the rise of Don Vito Corleone, and a sequel as we see his son and successor Michael's descent into darkness ... "Mamma mia!"
"Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."
I remembered preferring The Godfather: Part II over Part I, but that is no longer the case. I like how bleak part 2 is, but it really takes its time to tell its two simple stories. While the original has so much more going on, and flies by. Regardless The Godfather: Parts I & II deserve their reputation as two of the greatest films ever made, and it is amazing that they both won Best Picture.
"Do me this favor. I won't forget it. Ask your friends in the neighborhood about me. They'll tell you I know how to return a favor."
(Quick Hits) ... Spoilers:
- We begin on a familiar note with a big Corleone party, and we see that the family has relocated to Lake Tahoe for Michael to manage his interests in Vegas. But as the sins of his past come for revenge, he must decide if really cares more about the family or himself
- The most memorable new character is Frankie Pentangeli, who Michael should of trusted from the start ... well I think he did not trust him. There are a couple of occasions where Michael just suddenly knows what is really going on. Frankie getting played by the band when they play 'Pop Goes the Weasel' instead of Italian music was amusing
"Your father did business with Hyman Roth, he respected Hyman Roth... but he never trusted Hyman Roth!"
- Then Michael heads to Florida after a thrilling assassination attempt, where someone fires a machine gun at his bedroom window
- Should we jump over to Vito's story now ... why not ... that's what the movie does
- I would not be surprised at all if Don Bluth was inspired by this movie when he made 'An American Tail', with all the similar shots of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and even the line "Mamma mia!"
- As a history buff it is neat to see the undertones of political turmoil Michael notices in Cuba leading up to the revolution. This time I caught the moment Fredo gives away to Michael, that he is more familiar with Roth's men than he should. And we get that amazing moment where he confronts his brother
"I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!"
- It was a brilliant touch that Roth tried to have Michael killed and lured Fredo in to betray his brother, as a result of Michael forcing his way into Vegas by killing Roth's friend Moe Greene in the previous movie
- At this point there are only a couple plot beats left of Michael's story that get drawn out as he deals with Fredo, Kay leaves him for not changing his ways as she aborts their baby, and he avoids being charged with perjury in a Senate committee hearing when he gets Frankie Pentangeli to deny his testimony by bringing Pentangeli's brother into the courtroom from Italy
- At first I thought Diane Keaton's performance was too muted, but then it dawned on me that of course that is how her character would be since she now sees her husband as evil
- A few visual flourishes I noticed this time included Michael often being in the shadows to suggest the darkness that is growing within him, people being shut out by doors like from the last shot of the original, and even the second half has a colder look as it snows at Michael's home which is contrasted by the golden tint of the flashbacks
- Going back in time to Vito's storyline, where we get an excellent performance from Robert De Niro in the role. As he forces his way to the top by killing the boss of the territory in the best action scene of the film. When he assassinates him by wrapping the gun in his hand with a cloth. The sequence leading up to this moment is great as we see Vito following his target as he climbs across the rooftops
- These flashbacks were a great way to remind us of the scope of the Corleone family as they rise to power behind the cover of their olive oil business
- In a way I guess I do appreciate how slow this second part of the film is with Michael thinking he is protecting his family's honor, but instead he is actually just pushing everyone away. With the final shots suggesting that he is a loner at heart. He even cuts Tom Hagen out, despite his continued loyalty
- I had forgotten about the moment where Fredo stands up for himself by finally telling Michael that it was frustrating being passed up by his little brother. It is heartbreaking to see how Fredo was spending time with little Anthony before getting killed, since Michael likely never spent that kind of time with his son
- Then it is chilling to see Michael standing like a statue in his window overlooking the water, as we hear that shot ring out that kills Fredo
- The deaths at the end of Part II are not as exciting as part 1, but there is a lot more weight behind them. As a hitman gets sacrificed to get to Roth. Pentangeli follows his final orders to commit suicide as we get that riveting shot of him having bled to death in a bathtub. Then of course Michael refuses to forgive Fredo and takes that final step into darkness by having his own brother killed
While I now prefer all the iconic moments of Part I over Part II. My appreciation for this one is still solid with how much more reflective it is, as we experience the parallel between Vito building the Corleone family and Michael tearing it apart.
Thanks for reading.
Happy movie watching ... Skål!🍻