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Jan
2021
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The Godfather Coda

The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone

Nearing old age, mafia godfather Michael Corleone wants to make peace with the world. Yet, despite donating millions of dollars to charities, he is still blamed by his ex-wife Kay for killing his brother, Fredo. 

Emotionally blackmailing him at a papal inauguration, Kay demands that Michael let their son Anthony pursue his own life and not be tainted by Michael’s family. Reluctantly, Michael agrees to this and instead finds another heir in Vincent Mancini, the illegitimate son of Michael’s dead brother Sonny. Rough, raw and prone to violence, Vincent’s hot-headed dispute with rival Joey Zasa, threatens to escalate into all-out war but still Michael sees potential. Taking Vincent under his wing, Michael brings him into his confidence but was it the right move? Or has he just corrupted the next godfather-in-waiting?

... sadly misses another opportunity to reframe its own legacy.

Originally released in 1991, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is a re-edited version of The Godfather Part III that is intended to heal some old wounds. As the least favoured child of director Francis Ford Coppola‘s mafioso trilogy, the legendary status of the first two Godfather movies sadly disappeared upon this, its third outing. Criticised for casting his inexperienced daughter Sofia to play Vincent’s love interest, the film has long been regarded as a muted end to a much-lauded saga. Now returning with only minutes shaved off its running time, how could it possibly be different? Well, in truth… not much. -Now, that’s not to say that this isn’t the better of the two cuts (-it is) but if you’re a Godfather fan expecting some kind of a Damascan moment, then I’m afraid you may be disappointed on your way to the cinematic altar…

You see, as with the original Godfather movie, it’s pretty much business as usual. Insults are thrown, grievances are aired and protestations for vengeance are all laid at feet of Al Pacino‘s ageing capo. However, much like him, we’ve been here before and for a man who wants to move on, then as now, The Godfather, Coda sadly doesn’t offer much resistance for Pacino to play with. Only unmasked later courtesy of a diabetic attack, Pacino’s raging bull finally gets a stage upon which to rage but it’s all too late. In a movie that is still weighed down by the same leaden romance of Sofia Coppola’s Mary and Andy Garcia’s over-the-top Vincent, Pacino’s struggles with guilt (as good as they are) are still lost in the script’s anointment of its next godfather. 

Predictably brewing towards a cascade of vengeance by its third reel, The Godfather, Coda doesn’t really offer you a different story but an open ending compared to 1991’s indifferent shrug. You see, Francis Ford Coppola has come at you again with love, with the promise of an ending that equals the merits of its beginning. Sadly though, this latest re-edit is again mired with the same expositionary dialogue as 1991’s first cut was. And in amongst the falling debris, the real villain of Talia Shire’s puppet mistress gets lost in all the melodramatic machismo. Longing for a resurgent empire and also prepared to do whatever it takes to bring it into being, it is her grounded performance as Michael’s sister that really gets away with murder. 

So, in leaving you with a decaying montage in its final moments, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone sadly misses another opportunity to reframe its own legacy. Maybe like the first Bladerunner, there might be another release that gets closer to a more dramatic truth. This isn’t it but that said, it’s certainly a lot closer and more clearly-told than when it debuted in 1991. -Don’t believe me? Try it on and see if its cement-shaped boots are the right size.

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