Michael: You had a gun. They only had a knife. You could have talked them into surrendering. Turned them over to the police. Vincent: Hey, Uncle Mike, Zasa sent these guys I was just sending him a message that's all. Michael: Now he has to send you a message back. Vincent: Joey Zasa's gonna send me a message? Joey Zasa's gonna send me a message? Connie: Michael, he did the right thing. He got Zasa's name. Michael: What's Joey Zasa got to do this this? Joey Zasa's a patso. Joey Zasa. Alright, you are what you are. It's in your nature. From now on you stick close to me. You don't go anywhere, you don't do anything, you don't talk to anyone without checking with me first, understand? Vincent: Yeah. Michael: I've got problems with the commission, young man! Vincent: Yeah, I know. Michael: You don't make them any easier. Vincent: I know. Michael: Alright, go on. Get out of here. Connie: Michael. Michael: Yes. Connie: Now they'll fear you. Michael: Maybe they should fear you.Connie now resembles a black widow, always dressed darkly, while her thin frame belies the power she now wields as one of brother Michael's closest advisors. The evolution of Connie's character from hapless victim to this Lady Macbeth-like figure goes a long way towards rehabilitating the Godfather series' outlook towards its stereotypical female characters. A monumental liability that the film never really is able to overcome is the casting of director Francis Ford Coppola's daughter, Sofia, as Michael's daughter, Mary. Reportedly, at various times, everyone from Julia Roberts to Madonna to Winona Ryder had to drop out of the production after being cast as Mary. Ryder, dropped out so close to the start of shooting that Coppola felt no choice but to cast his own daughter (now a major director in her own right). While that may stretch credibility somewhat, it's easy to see why he might have felt compelled to commit such a rash act. Consciously or not, Coppola has always had a kinship with Michael, both sons of Italian immigrants navigating through their respective corporate surroundings, struggling to achieve power, control, and freedom to pursue the success that escaped their fathers. For Coppola it is artistic success, and for Michael it is legitimacy for his criminal family. Though Michael achieves it before the movie's start, he continues to try to pull the puppet strings as he later accuses an enemy, Don Altobello (Eli Wallach) of doing. In this film, unlike the others, Michael is confronted with his deterioration and mortality, finally feeling remorse for his actions: Here is the crux of the story. Michael, a vampiric shadow of the man he once was, constantly hiding his evil behind his dark tinted glasses, laments that he was never loved as his father or his patron, Don Tomassino, were. And Fate keeps destroying the ones he loves in order to exact a price for Michael's sins. After Tomassino is brutally assassinated, he sits at his coffin, and offers this soliloquy:
Goodbye my old friend. You could have lived a little longer, I could be closer to my dream. You were so loved, Don Tommasino. Why was I so feared, and you so loved? What was it? I was no less honorable. I wanted to do good. What betrayed me? My mind? My heart? Why do I condemn myself so? I swear, on the lives of my children: Give me a chance to redeem myself, and I will sin, no more.Sadly, Sofia Coppola is not cut out to hold the screen with an acting heavyweight like Pacino. Further damaging is a subplot involving a forbidden romance with her cousin Vincent. One never believes that a street tough like Vincent would find the valley girlish Mary so appealing, and definitely not enough to jeopardize his standing with Michael. But her character is integral to the film's denouement. The finale at Anthony's operatic debut is the setpiece that most evokes the grandness of the previous films. It also seems to blatantly frame the film as a grand opera. The melodrama certainly seems to be echoed in the opera being performed, Cavalleria Rusticana, and Coppola seems to be commenting on how these characters have moved away from the realism he had endowed them with in the seventies. Twenty years after Part II, Coppola is acknowledging not only how the Corleones have become American myths, as film critic Glenn Kenny writes on his blog, but caricatures in much the same way the cumulative experiences of Coppola and Pacino in particular have led them to become caricatures of their former selves. From a kinder perspective, the Corleones are now just as archetypal as the characters one usually finds in opera, with emotional dynamics writ just as large, their villains just as flamboyant, their "heroine", Mary, just as innocent, and their "heroes", Michael and Vincent, just as boorish. The Vatican roman-a-clef is also reminiscent of opera's similar use of real events as a backdrop. This all leads to an ending that is more than fitting for Michael, as his sins are visited on an innocent: The scream Pacino lets out when Mary dies is both cathartic and heartbreaking, the most expressive act of emotion we've ever seen from a previously pragmatic and cold individual. The film ends the trilogy powerfully, illustrating the sad retribution that Fate had in store for Michael, to live to see the death of his innocent daughter as a result of the life he lead. For more on the Godfather films, see: Seventies Cinema Revival: The Godfather Seventies Cinema Revival: The Godfather Part II Stills courtesy of Paramount Pictures.