Some may argue that this film should never have been made, but THE GODFATHER, PART III was strong enough to garner an Academy Award nomination for best picture, and it didn't embarrass the Godfather franchise. Set some 20 years after the events of Part II, the film concerns Michael Corleone's quest for redemption in a world where moral lines are becoming increasingly blurred. Many reviewers singled out director Francis Ford Coppola's daughter Sofia (who replaced an ailing Winona Ryder) as the main weakness of the picture, and it's true that her one-note performance and uncertain line readings drag things down whenever she is on screen. Others complained that a Michael Corleone of diminished powers was not the Michael everyone wanted to see. But overall, the picture was an effective and logical continuation of the Corleone saga, with a few moments (especially Michael's agonizing, cathartic silent scream at the end) nearly as indelible as any in the first two films. It's not a bad film at all. But unlike parts I and II, it's far from a great one. 1/2 - JL
THE GODFATHER PART III is a movie that you either hate or like with reservations. I've yet to meet a fan who loved this film unreservedly. Even those I know who like the film enormously agree that it doesn't approach the perfection of the first two. Yet, it remains a good film and one of Coppola's most personal works.
Poor Sofia Coppola, whose reputation suffered for years until she became a respectable director in her own right with films like THE VIRGIN SUICIDES and LOST IN TRANSLATION. In a fit of blind fatherly love, Francis Coppola thought his daughter - who had appeared only in minor parts in other films - could play the important part of Michael Corleone's daughter Mary. He was wrong. But there are many good to great performances in this film, and Sofia Coppola's bland turn does not ruin the film. Just as characters such as Fredo became more important in THE GODFATHER PART II, Connie Corleone is a major player in the third film, and Talia Shire gives her best performance yet as a Lady Macbeth without the guilt. With Michael attempting to go legit, it is up to Connie to order what she considers the necessary hits, and Shire plays Connie as cunning, ruthless and, yes, a bit sexy. Andy Garcia in his first big role and Joe Mantegna are both utterly convincing as local hoods, Garcia the young, rough and tumble kid from the streets, Mantegna as a dapper "bella figura" modeled after John Gotti. Eli Wallach creates the classic character of Don Altobello, a doddering old Don who is still sharp enough to plot treachery behind Michael Corleone's back.
My favorite performances are the two most underrated. First we have Al Pacino, near the beginning of the revival of his career. No, he is not the same Michael Corleone we knew from the first two films, but this is supposed to be twenty years after Part Two. Pacino's characterization of the older, remorseful Michael is subtle and intriguing, with a bit of Marlon Brando from the first film thrown into the mix. Unfortunately for the actor, the film garnered heavily mixed reviews, and Pacino's hilarious cartoonish turn as a gangster in Warren Beatty's DICK TRACY the same year overshadowed the more delicate, moving work he did in THE GODFATHER PART III.
Then there is Franc D'Ambrosio, for whom THE GODFATHER PART II remains, to date, his only film work. Best known for playing the lead in Andrew Lloyd Weber's The Phantom of the Opera on stage, D'Ambrosio was natural and charming in front of a camera. His performance as Michael's son Andrew is a complete success.
Unlike the previous two films, THE GODFATHER PART III is most memorable in spurts. It doesn't all hang together the way the first two films did, and there is some extremely dubious editing throughout the film, even in some of the film's best scenes. But the highlights - an opening celebration introducing the major players, a confrontation between two gangsters in which one of them loses part of his ear, a helicopter attack on a meeting of gangsters in Atlantic City - rank with the best scenes of the first two films. Coppola is still brilliant in intercutting public ritual (this time an opera performance) with "taking care of family business" via violence, even if some of the hits seem highly unlikely (just how does one single button man get into the Vatican and locate the exact Cardinal he's looking for without encountering any sort of security?).
Coppola also made BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA two years later, which is technically superior to GODFATHER PART III, visually stunning and much more fluid than THE GODFATHER PART III. But I saw it twice and didn't give a damn about any of the characters. GF3, despite its flaws, is a much more personal, satisfying piece of work. Superb in its best moments, dull and unconvincing in its worst, THE GODFATHER PART III was an unnecessary sequel, but a watchable one nonetheless. ½ - JB
ADD ANOTHER QUOTE AND MAKE IT A GARROT... ER... GALLON
"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."
YOU WON'T SEE HIM NO MORE
One person who is keenly missed in The Godfather Part III is Robert Duvall, who had played Tom Hagen in the first two films. Coppola negotiated with Duvall, but could never come to an agreement, so he once again chose the Corleone solution - the character of Tom Hagen was killed off between films. No details on the death are mentioned in The Godfather Part III. Instead of Duvall, as Tom Hagen, George Hamilton plays B. J. Harrison, the new Corleone family lawyer. At the time of the movie's release, Hamilton stated that his method of acting in the film was to find Al Pacino and stand right behind his shoulder!
The Godfather Part III has more of the feeling of the first film than the second, and this is made stronger by the return of several actors and characters from the first film, the most famous being singer Al Martino as the Sinatra-like Johnny Fontaine. Other returnees from the first film who did not appear in the second are Franco Citto as Michael's trustworthy Sicilian bodyguard Calo and Gabriele Torrei as Enzo the Baker.