We are Family – A review of The Godfather Part II (1974)

by Cesidia on August 31, 2011

thumbnailAs we wrote in our review of The Godfather, its sequel, The Godfather Part II, highlights family loyalty a very important theme. It does not change in the second one. However, this second movie shows a different perspective: Those who side against the family.

There are two important instances where loyalty is brought back up to the surface. The first is with Frankie Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo). Congress summoned him to court to help support the charges made against Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). The Corleone family business is being investigated and the government believes Pentangeli can help them with their case against the family. Pentangeli took over the Corleone’s land and power in New York City. Michael seeks out Pentangeli’s brother from Italy and brings him over to America to sit in during the hearing. He hopes to convince Pentangeli to shut his mouth. By bringing his brother to court it means that if he speaks the truth the Corleone’s know where his family is and hurt them if possible. Seeing his brother’s face he immediately make him recant his sayings. He feels bad that he has spoken out against his own kind. Later in the movie Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) visits him in jail and Pentangeli talks about death with him. Hagen tells him that if Pentangeli were to commit suicide his family would be spared. Loyalty: 1, Traitors: 0.

But it does not stop there. Pentangeli had to die because of his disloyalty but so did the helpless Fredo (John Cazale). Fredo had signs of family disloyalty in the first movie when he sided with Moe Green against his brother and Michael was very angry. Fredo only made it worse by siding against the family in the second movie. He pretends that that he does not know Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), a wealthy casino owner and his right hand man, Johnny Ola (Dominic Chianese). Only when he is drunk does he tell Michael that accidentally admit he did know them. It is there that Michael realizes that Fredo has taken sides against the family, and has helped Michael’s enemies during their assassination attempts. He gives Fredo a chance to redeem himself when he escapes from Cuba but Fredo is too afraid and runs away, sealing his fate. At the end of the movie, where it seems that Michael has possibly forgiven Fredo, he is shot while fishing in Lake Tahoe. Loyalty: 2, Traitors: 0.

There are also other instances of broken loyalty. Kay (Diane Keaton) is kicked out of the family and is unable to see her children because she broke Michael’s loyalty by getting an abortion. The point in the movie where we know Michael is fully upset is when he strikes Kay. At that point he has lost all love he had for her.

The movie not only discusses betrayal. It also shows the backstory to the Corleone family. It tells the story of the Young Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro). Left alone in Italy after the murder of his father, brother, and his mother he immigrates to America. There he starts a family in New York. There he watches the most powerful Don preside over his friends and neighbors. He saw how corrupt the man had gotten and finds a way to kill him, thus starting his own powerful family. It also shows how important family was to Vito. Years after Vito saught refuge in the States he returns to visit friends in Sicily. There he goes back to the Don who murdered his family and seeks revenge. The man was very old and was probably too frail to really pose a threat to anyone but Vito was still so angry about his family he wanted to carry out this task.

Vito uses his new power to bring his family together. However while Michael is in power, he uses it to destroy his family, not on purose necessarily but his family is destroyed all the same.

This movie has some great scenes in it, but is also incredibly violent. It also shows how crazy Michael has become from all this power. Through these two Oscar-winning movies, we see Michael slowly transform from honest army boy to a powerful corrupt man. And everyone knows the famous line about people who have complete power: Absolute Power corrupts absolutely.

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