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Paramount Studios presents
The Godfather Part III (1990)

"You understand guns? Finance is a gun. Politics is knowing when to pull the trigger."
- Don Licio Lucchesi (Enzo Robutti)

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: October 09, 2001

Stars: Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia
Other Stars: Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, Bridget Fonda, George Hamilton, Sofia Coppola
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

MPAA Rating: R for Violence and Language
Run Time: 02h:50m:02s
Release Date: October 09, 2001
UPC: 097361564746
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ B-C+A- B

DVD Review

Anyone who has done any cooking knows that, despite one's best intentions, a dish can have the best ingredients, the right recipe and be executed perfectly and still not come out right. The question is, is it edible?

The fact is that it is surprising this movie is as good as it is. Paramount Studios proposed the idea of making a third Godfather movie at a time when Coppola was finally hurting after the monumental failure of One from the Heart, which threatened to send his Zoetrope Studio into receivership. When he agreed to do the film, they insisted that it be done start to finish in one year, for released in the Christmas movie season. Considering the limitations, the complexity of the plot is astounding and surely contributes to the some of the movie's difficulties. Part of the problem is that there is no "Godfather Part 2-1/2" that shows how the Michael we "know" at the end of Part II becomes the Michael that we meet in Part III.

There are many flaws in The Godfather Part III. The acting is often stiff and with a few exceptions, unconvincing. There are some overly conscious attempts to link the movie with its predecessor that lack the sublety of reference found in the second film. One of the most glaring problems is the fact that Robert Duvall refused to appear in the third installment for financial reasons. His character was quickly rewritten, renamed B.J. Harrison and filled by George Hamilton. In many ways, Hamilton can be a charming performer—within limits—but his later career has been mostly spent playing himself in stunt roles. Unfortunately, here he is most unconvincing and the excuse that he did the best he could doesn't wash—this is a Godfather film, for goodness sake. A better solution would have been to create the role of the family lawyer for John Savage as Tom Hagen's son. Savage is a fine actor and is totally wasted in the role of the young priest sent to the Vatican.

The best part of the plot is that, in this movie, the overriding theme of legitmacy vs. illegitimacy is clearly realized. As Michael tries to get away from the illegal activities of the family, he finds that criminality exists at the highest levels of "legitimate" society. We saw the seeds of this sown in the original film, with the politicians and judges as "nickels and dimes in the Don's pocket." Then in the sequel, we see Michael's dealing with the corrupt senator in Nevada as well as the Cuban government. The statement by Hyman Roth in Part II is telling: "Michael, we are bigger than U.S. Steel." Here now, the malevolence reaches a global level as Michael deals with the superficially "pure" Vatican that is riddled with evil immorality. The film opens with Michael Corleone being granted the title of Commendatore in the order of Saint Sebastian the Martyr, the highest award the Vatican can bestow on a layman, just before he sits down with a crooked Cardinal to cut a deal to save the Vatican Bank.

Although Al Pacino provides his consistently high level of acting here, even he seems to struggle with monotony of his as Michael Corleone character. In the previous Godfather films, it is the subtext of Michael's inner struggle between good and evil that make him a compelling, tragic figure. In this third installment, his confessions ring as false as a drug-addicted actor on Entertainment Tonight, confessing the evil of his drug use. I have argued that Michael Corleone should have died at the end of Part II and his presence here is a failure of the overall story as a giantic, tragic trilogy.

Diane Keaton as Kay Corleone and Talia Shire as Connie Corleone Rizzi provide a fascinating duality of performance that is one of the more interesting aspects of the film. Both are drawn and repelled by Michael for their own reasons. Kay loves him but dreads the sight of him for a lifetime of lies. Connie has begun to assume a larger role in the workings of the vast crime enterprise, despite the knowledge that Michael killed her husband (in the original movie) and surely, she suspects his hand in the death of their brother.

Andy Garcia (Vincent Mancini) is a dynamic force on screen and is unfortunately tempered by the tone set by the story of Michael's attempt at redemption. His passion and intensity is the one element of The Godfather Part III that harkens back to the original film. His first big scene with Joey Zaza (Joe Mantegna) and Michael has more dark power than is found in the entire Part II entry.

Eli Wallach overacts terribly as Don Altobello and emerges unconvincing as a worthy opponent for Michael. Montegna's performance as Joey Zaza, while capturing an interesting aspect of the Teflon Don, John Gotti, his menace, especially in the big meeting of the Commission, is forced and lacks depth.

As Mary Corleone, Sofia Coppola came in for some of the most harsh criticism that started even before the movie was released. The fact is that she is just not very good in the part. It is not the first time that an actor was not up to the requirements of a role; it was simply a poor decision to cast her and that cannot be escaped. Having seen the film several times now, it is easier for me to concentrate on the parts of the story that work and ignore what doesn't. I think that, at least to overdub her dialog (a la Andi MacDowell in Greystoke), would have been a decent alternative. That would have blunted some of the criticism and redirected the vultures who seem to wait for the release of a Coppola film.

All the actors seem to suffer in the haste to finish the movie and their performances are stagy and superficial. There is just not enough darkness in this film; it seems watered down. Rumored to have been written virtually on the fly, it shows it. The Godfather Part III is still watchable, although it surely could not stand alone without its predecessors. The plot is fascinating and the themes, however green on the vine, are there for fine suspenseful entertainment. The "snatched from the headlines" story of the Pope, and realistic global conspiracy are quite fascinating elements.

This film does cap the overall story of the Corleones in a powerful way. The earliest scenes of the young Vito Corleone from The Godfather Part II are focused on the neighborhood from which the Family emerged. In The Godfather, we see the Corleone organization encompassed a city. The story of Michael in Part II shows the Family expanding to a national, verging on an international, reach. In the last film, we see a truly worldwide crime syndicate that infects the very foundations of our most important—and respected—institutions.

Coppola has always been an outstanding screenwriter and a potent, if occasionally erratic, director. The stylization of the first two films are missing in action or watered down here in the third, substituted by immediacy and realism; but like many artists, lesser Coppola is better than no Coppola at all. Ultimately, the successes are the strengths of The Godfather Part III and those are the parts that make it (almost) a fitting conclusion to the series. I have heard many complain that they don't want to buy The Godfather Collection because they don't want Part III. I think this is a mistake, because there is good stuff in this installment and I believe that it will grow on the viewer. Credit must be given in that there is new material here, that this is not just a remake of the original film, which no doubt was the Paramount executives' idea.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: As with the transfers of the two previous films, the source material is the source of trouble here. Although this is the most recent of the trilogy to be filmed, it may well be in the least pleasant condition. Grain abounds, and an overall softness prevails; there is movement everywhere in most interior shots. The darkest scenes suffer the most detail loss and show the most flaws. On the positive side, this film seems cleaner than the other two, and colors, although a bit dark, seem natural, including overall fleshtones. The best news is that Paramount does seems to have done well, as there are no obvious signs of the digital process, and this is a good thing.

Much as we want to see these films pristine, it seems this is not to be. Something in all these imperfections actually serves to enhance the general tone of this dark and forboding saga. There is nothing startling or blatant; the grain is like an extra layer of grit, accentuating the coarse, malevolent goings-on.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 remix expands best in action scenesómost impressively in the scene with the helicopter massacreóand is really quite dynamic overall. The audio transfer benefits from the participation of Skywalker Sound on the original film. Dialogue, while sometimes quite subdued, comes through the front channels at the levels originally intended: mumblings are as difficult to discern here as they were in the theater, which seems to serve a purpose in the story. The beautiful score fills the room and then slips easily into the background. The opera performed near the climax has a full and live quality to it. Easily, this is the best audio transfer of the three.

A French mono track is also provided.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01:23m:11s

Extras Review: The menu system features alternating scenes from the movie as background and are very simple with play, setup and scene selection buttons that feature the puppet strings symbol as a highlight. Again, I have to complain about the job done on scene selection. Like the other movies in the set, this film is indexed with only 25 cues and each cue can contain several scenes, making it difficult to find the exact scene desired.

Francis Ford Coppola provides a very interesting commentary to this third installment of the Godfather series. Along with insights into the process of conceiving a film that he admits he never thought would be made, Coppola details the facts surrounding the genesis of the project very honestly. He also has moments of severe defensiveness about some of the criticism he and his daughter received for her performance in the film. It is very charming when he catches his breath and stops to marvel at scenes that feature Sofia. This was very much a family experience for the director and he delights in pointing out his relatives everywhere. The complexity of the plot also provides an opportunity for him to talk about screenwriting, one of his greatest strengths. There is also some discussion of a projected fourth Godfather movie, that would seem will never be made now, due to the death of author Mario Puzo.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Flawed and riddled with difficulty both in concepton and execution, The Godfather Part III fails to live up to its predecessors. But, seriously, what film could? This final entry was rushed and it shows. But, as with any film from Francis Ford Coppola, there is interest and entertainment. The plot is a labyrinth of twists and turns, some of the performances are marvelous, some of the performances stink—but I still am interested in finding out how it ends.


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