I swore I’d never write a top four list, as five is the minimum acceptable number in my mind for that sort of thing, but let’s be honest, it’s The Godfather, and there isn’t much wrong with it. But I don’t think it’s perfect, and after re-watching it again last night, I thought I’d just chime in with a few thoughts on things the masterpiece could have done better. Sure, it’s like telling Da Vinci his shading is a bit off on the Mona Lisa, but hey, it’s fun to play devil’s advocate every once in a while.
All these things being said, I do love the film, and the point of this post is to encourage debate if you disagree and think it’s flawless, or in contrast you could think it’s crazy overrated. I’m somewhere in the middle. Read on to see what I’m nitpicking about.
1. Michael in Italy
The God father is a really, really long movie, so much so that the length often prevents most people from watching it. But I think it could have been shorter had an unnecessary plotline been cut heavily. I have many issues with Michael’s trip to Italy, such as why in X amount of times a room full of people would forget he murdered two men in cold blood, one of whom was a police captain. Also, I don’t understand why the bruise on his face never seems to heal. But mostly, I don’t understand why these scenes are in the movie at all.
There’s about 20 minutes to half an hour of Michael wandering around the Italian countryside with two bodyguards. He visits his namesake city of Coreleone, where he’s kind of a big deal, and people throw him a party and donate to him their hottest girl named Apollonia. In what seems to be a week or so later, the two are married, though unfortunately practically the next scene is her getting blown up by a car bomb intended for Michael.
These events are interesting I suppose, but it’s an entirely self contained episode that has nothing to do with the rest of the plot. The attempt on his life is never mentioned again, and upon returning home he gets back together with Kay and Apollonia is now “that one Italian chick I was married to for two hours” who also is never brought up.
2. Sonny’s Epic Demise
The Godfather was known at the time for being brutally realistic in its violence, with people strangled and shot in the head completely in frame, with realistic (for the time) blood effects that populated few other movies. I remember thinking when I first saw the Godfather himself get shot about six times, “wow, that’s a lot of bullets, I don’t think you can survive that.” Though I suppose it’s possible, and his eventual recovery seems plausible, albeit unlikely.
But then there’s Sonny’s death. It’s a classic scene where he pulls up to a toll booth and a parade of rival gang members open up on him with tommy guns as he sits in his car. He takes dozens of bullets sitting in the passenger seat, and it’s really intense.
But then he GETS OUT OF THE CAR and is shot about two dozen MORE times. I just don’t understand that while the rest of the violence in this film is incredibly realistic, how they left in a man getting riddled with bullets to the point where he should be dead, but then he actually opens the door and stands up outside of his car to be shot even more. It’s like something out of an uber-violent Looney Tunes cartoon, and just seems really out of place in the film.
3. Carlo’s Betrayal
I also have some issues with the events leading up to Sonny’s death. Barzini’s plan, as I understand it, is as follows.
1) A woman calls Carlo’s house, Connie answers and thinks he’s cheating.
2) She flips out and breaks things
3) Carlo flips out in turn and beats her so she calls Sonny
4) Sonny races over there with no entourage, and must take one certain toll road
5) Gang ambush
That’s a lot of factors where the entire plan could have gone awry if any of the steps failed, but whatever, that’s not what I have an issue with. What I have a problem with is that despite it being blatantly obvious that Carlo was in on it (what, those guys were just waiting at the tollbooth all day every day just in case Sonny drove by?) he not only thinks he can get away with it, but it takes YEARS for the family to exact revenge on him, and they actually keep him very close by.
You would think after pulling a stunt like that, Carlo would have fled for the hills as there’s no way he COULDN’T be implicated, but why would Michael keep him around afterward for so long? Yes, he’s his sister’s husband, but he could be feeding info to the enemy, or decide to carry in a gun and blow Michael himself away on another rival family errand at a moment’s notice. And Michael knew all along he’d kill him eventually, despite being his brother in law, but why wait so long? It just doesn’t really make sense to me.
4. Kill Everyone
I’m not going to say that the end of The Godfather isn’t supremely awesome as watching the heads of the five families and Moe Green get murdered in various setups around the city and country is great. But it just seems a bit primitive for a movie that’s supposedly this sophisticated. Has all this drama and complex character relationships simply been leading up to the final solution of “murder everyone who isn’t you?”
Barzini is an obvious target, as it’s revealed he was behind Sonny’s death, but what about the other families? There’s an entire scene to say that it wasn’t Tattaglia who ordered the hit, rather it was Barzini, yet he’s killed as well. Same with Moe Green, who we all hated in the one scene he’s in, but can you just up and acquire his property just because he’s murdered?
I’m not saying I don’t get the idea behind the mass hit. Murder everyone who means you harm, or probably means you harm, seems like a good plan. But what about the rest of families? Don’t each of these guys who were killed have a son or two who want to avenge them like Michael is doing for his family? Isn’t killing the dons just like bashing a hornets’ nest with a baseball bat?
The Corleones didn’t fall in line when they lost family, why would these families behave any differently? I guess the idea is just that such a broad show of force scares everyone into submission, but it just seems like a crude ending for a smart movie.