The Godfather: Part III (1990)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * ½

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Having grown rich as a Mafia don, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) desires to become a legitimate businessman and so involves himself in a complex deal intended to give him control over a vast corporation owned by the Vatican. Unfortunately, his associates and enemies in the Mafia make it difficult for him to sever his ties with the world of organized crime.

Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather: Part III, while not as accomplished as the first film in the series, is certainly as entertaining as is the second.


The movie's narrative is rich and complex. Coppola immerses the viewer in Michael's intricate business machinations and in the nearly equally Machiavellian plots of his rivals. At the same time, the director exposes another world, that of the Mafia, where disputes between brutal thugs are settled not by intrigue but by murder. While Michael clearly desires to escape the latter way of life, his engagement with it is so deep he is never able to do so. In fact, as the film progresses, the viewer is made increasingly aware that the respectable world peopled with various prelates and wealthy capitalists and that inhabited by Mafia kingpins are so integrated with one another that Michael's efforts were doomed to failure from the inception.


The Godfather: Part III is more than a mere recitation of a series of schemes, however. The director skillfully brings out his protagonist's regrets for his past sins, especially his murder of his brother Fredo, as well as his love for his son and daughter. The moviegoer is thus allowed to see how much of what Michael does is inspired either by his desire for redemption or his hope that his children will acquire a legitimate legacy from him. His daughter, Mary (Sofia Coppola), still loves him, in spite of his failings, and he yearns for her well-being and respect. He is, consequently, chagrined to learn that she has become romantically involved with her cousin, Vinnie (Andy Garcia), a vicious young man who desires to gain control over the criminal organizations over which Michael still holds sway.


Thanks to the presence of these various elements, the movie is able to captivate the viewer with its tangled narrative, to involve him with its characters, and to make him feel the sorrows they endure. Michael, in the end, emerges as an evil man who is aware of his evil, but who is never able to overcome his faults. He is a genuinely tragic character who not only destroys himself but devastates the lives of all those who are dear to him.


While The Godfather: Part III never comes close to being as good as is the original film, it still provides a satisfying conclusion to Michael's story.

Review by Keith Allen

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