The Godfather Part III (1990)

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Francis Ford Coppola directs Al Pacino, Andy Garcia and Eli Wallach in this third instalment of the Corleone crime family’s attempts to become legitimate. 

The struggle with The Godfather Part III is you can feel the deadline rush of the production, hear the bribe money being counted by the unenthused returning talent and taste that Coppola is no longer in command of his genius. And that’s inspite of a lush visual slice of golden cheese melted over every frame, a satisfying topping for nostalgic eyes. It isn’t a bad movie on the whole but there are entire sequences that feel amatuerish (the penthouse helicopter massacre belongs in a mafia TV sitcom rather than quite such a prestigious project) and pieces of forced recasting that come off as petulant (Sofia Coppola took a lot of deserved flack but George Hamilton’s Tom Hagen-lite equally feels like an insult to immeasurably better Duvall). There is good though. The Vatican corruption plotline and Sicillian sequences are operatic and engaging. Pacino might no longer be the softly spoken, dead eyed enigma of the early 70s but he hadn’t quite descended into maximum HOO-HA yet. His cardie clad King Lear-ish “They pull me back in!” speech is the stuff of celluloid thespian dreams. And series newbloods Eli Wallach, Joe Mantega and especially Andy Garcia do different but notable work. Wallach may overact shamelessly but has fun, while Garcia deliver probably the best work of his career. Shame it was for the tailend of the franchise, a franchise you suspect he adores as much as us the audience. A more engaged creative team should have seen the longetivity in centering a fourth entry on his impulsive but gracious Vincent. He certainly does enough to inspire them, and us, here that III isn’t an entirely redundant equity grab. In the fallout you get the feeling the overriding mantra of Coppola when cobbling this together was “If I had to make a third one wouldn’t it be nice to…” with no real concern how those slight ideas flowed together. As one of the last few large scale works by a waning master of the form it is neither as dementedly inventive as his wobbly Dracula nor as competent as his gun for hire adaptation of The Rainmaker.

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