The Godfather Part III matches its predecessors in narrative intensity, epic scope, socio-political analysis, physical beauty and deep feeling for its characters and milieu. In addition, the $55 million-plus production is the most personal of the three for the director.
Like the original, Part III opens with a lengthy festival celebration punctuated by backroom dealings. It is 1979, and Michael Corleone, having divested himself of his illegal operations, is being honored by the Catholic Church for his abundant charitable activities.
Hopeful of bringing his family closer together, Michael dotes on his daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola), and understandably becomes perturbed by her affair with cousin Vincent (Andy Garcia), hot-headed, violence-prone illegitimate son of Michael’s late brother Sonny. Vincent has been unhappily working for slumlord and old-style thug Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna), who has taken on Michael’s less savory holdings.
Bad blood between the ruthless Zasa and the Corleone family mounts just as Michael tries, with $600 million, to buy a controlling interest in the European conglomerate Immobiliare, a move that would cement his business legitimacy and financial future.
After 80 minutes, the action switches to Italy, where it remains for the duration. Pacino and Eli Wallach’s old dons can’t help begin scheming against one another. In one of the most masterful examples of sustained intercutting in cinema, the performance on opening night of Pacino’s son in Cavalleria Rusticana serves as the backdrop for several murderous missions.
For the third time out in his career role, Pacino is magnificent. Garcia brings much-needed youth and juice to the ballsy Vincent, heir apparent to the Corleone tradition, much as James Caan sparked the first film and Robert De Niro invigorated the second.
Diane Keaton proves a welcome, if brief, presence in warming the film, and Talia Shire seems pleased with the opportunity to do some dirty work at long last.
Film’s main flaw, unavoidably, is Sofia Coppola in the important, but not critical, role of Michael’s daughter. Unfortunate casting decision was made after original actress Winona Ryder had to bow out at the start of production.
[In 1991 Paramount released a 170-min. Final Directorector’s Cut on homevideo only.]
1990: Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Supp. Actor (Andy Garcia), Cinematography, Art Direction, Editing, Song (‘Promise Me You’ll Remember’)