The Godfather Part III was notoriously lauded as a failure back when originally released. The year was 1990, the very same year Martin Scorsese released Goodfellas, one of the most acclaimed films in history. Apart from a cameo by Catherine Scorsese, The Godfather Part III had nothing on the Scorsese picture, critically and audience-wise. Much blame for the original’s choppiness and failures was hurled on Francis Ford Coppola’s casting of his daughter, Sofia Coppola as Mary Corleone, who plays an incredibly important role in the story. Re-titled and re-edited, Coppola claims that his new cut, The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, brings fresh life to The Godfather Part III.
A watch that is most certainly recommended, even to those whose criticism of the original remains stark, The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is a worthy, yet still flawed ending to The Godfather trilogy. There is near-endless amounts of brilliance on show and so much of the film works incredibly well. Bringing near-top-form is Al Pacino, Eli Wallach, Bridget Fonda, and Andy Garcia. The Godfather cinematographer Gordon Willis returns with the most pristine and delicate of images, capturing the Vatican, Italy, and the Corleone family in all their troubled beauty. Not for a second could the cinematographic elements be questioned, as they are simply sublime and match the valiance of both films prior.
Micheal Corleone (Al Pacino) decides to end his family’s supposedly now-legitimate business and chooses his nephew Vincent (Andy Garcia) as his successor. After accepting Vincent, an illegitimate nephew, into the family, Michael becomes entwined with the criminal business he swore to do away with. With pressure building and the mob refusing to let him go, an assassin is sent to kill Michael. On the night of his son’s (Franc D’Ambrosio) operatic debut at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily, the family goes in support of Anthony’s newfound love of singing, while the ongoing assassination plot unfolds backstage.
Everything culminates with the film’s explosive ending, using the infamous editing technique used in The Godfather, Coppola simultaneously shows Vincent’s revenge while watching Anthony’s operatic performance. Such revisions in editing make the ending effective and solve many of the original’s problems. The techniques used echo Coppola’s past, while enacting a new and intriguing story. The mixing of the Corleone’s with the Catholic church is a fascinating and wonderfully told story. Ending in an operatic and grand denouement, Coppola unquestionably had not lost his touch, it just was obscured by some missteps that could have been resolved. Sadly, Sofia Coppola remains the film’s biggest issue to this date, even in this new cut. Her performance simply isn’t good, however, the lines given to her really don’t help either. It falls into cliché territory. Even though Coppola undeniably does a great job here, he also makes some grand errors that cost the film being put on the level where The Godfather and The Godfather Part II stand.
The film’s climax is riveting, conducted to the highest degree and operatic in all senses. Such scenes like this are so good that it seems criticism of this installment may have to be retooled for the film as a whole. The film works, even with glaring flaws. Scenes of this kind are scattered throughout. Apart from its climax, a few moments come to mind, like the magnificent opening conversation between Michael and Archbishop Gilday (Donal Donnelly) or Vincent taking on Joey Zasa’s (Joe Mantegna) hit men. The result of this re-edited version of Francis Ford Coppola’s final entry to The Godfather trilogy is a better, re-tooled end. Although, not without a fair few glaring scripting and acting problems. At times the retreading of famous scenes does feel a little contrived, but is pulled off well and is acceptable in hindsight.