The Godfather Part II
“We’re both part of the same hypocrisy, Senator” silk-suited Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) icily informs corrupt politician Pat Geary (G.D. Spradlin), “but never think it applies to my family.” Then we watch as Michael’s ruthlessness on behalf of his Mafia family destroys his flesh-and-blood ties in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II. Branching out from the relatively self-contained first film, Coppola follows Michael as he plays both criminal and detective, expanding his gambling interests into 1950s Cuba with the help of aging Jewish gangster Hyman Roth (acting guru Lee Strasberg) while trying to figure out who was behind an attempt on his life. Coppola interrupts Michael’s quest with flashbacks to the story of family patriarch Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) coming to America and beginning his rise in organized crime. The two stories don’t complement each other, plotwise, but Vito’s humanity and thief’s honor contrast with Michael’s ever-increasing disengagement, making the film’s bleak ending hit all the harder. Coppola bites off more than a mouthful here, and if anyone comes off shorted, it’s Diane Keaton as Michael’s long-suffering wife, Kay. But the unimpeachable cast and Coppola’s then-unerring visual sense and storytelling flair helped create an unexpected masterpiece. Too bad about Part III.