In 1990, sixteen years after the best sequel of all time, "The Godfather Part II", Writer/Director Francis Ford Coppola revisited the Corleone family for the final film in his trilogy THE GODFATHER PART III.
At the time, audiences and critics were split on the merits of this last chapter, but viewing it nearly twenty years later, in tandem with the other films, part 3 is a worthy, if lesser, successor.
As the film opens, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is receiving a high Papal honor for his philanthropic works. Within moments of the award, he gives the Vatican a check for $100 million.
Coppola's brilliant opening sets up the template for the film as Michael tries desperately to escape his criminal past and become legitimate while corrupt forces (Vatican anyone?) constantly pull him back into the fold.
Michael and Kay (Diane Keaton) are still estranged and their children are now grown.
While his son Anthony aspires to become an opera singer, his daughter Mary stays close to her father's side.
Michael's nephew Vincent (bastard son of James Caan's Sonny Corleone) emerges as an explosively violent, fiercely loyal Corleone. Andy Garcia plays him perfectly, showing all the DNA of Sonny in the changing world of 1979.
Joe Mantegna plays Joey Zaza, a two bit neighborhood Don with aspirations for much more.
As Michael's legitimate business ventures become billion dollar entities, his old crime family want their cut and loyalties are tested.
At nearly three hours, it's the first "Godfather" film to feel a bit long. It's never boring, but deliberant in its pace.
The strengths of the film are many. Pacino's mostly terrific performance, the Trump Casino set attack on the meeting of the Don's, Talia Shire and Eli Wallach as powerhouses of family power.
The one glaring weakness of the film nearly kills it entirely. Sofia Coppola went on to become a gifted film director. Her film "Lost In Translation" with Bill Murray is nearly perfect.
But her debut and one and only acting role here is just horrible. Her line readings are flat and her range of emotions reminds me of Neil Diamond in his only film role in 1980's "The Jazz Singer". It's embarrassing. You can feel Pacino and Diane Keaton pulling her forward and she takes you out of the film again and again. Nepotism has never been so uncomfortably on display.
But that's soon forgotten when Coppola creates one of his all time greatest dramatic sequences with the film's final 30 minutes.
As Anthony makes his Operatic premiere in Sicily, disguised assassins descend on the theatre to kill Michael during the performance.
Michael's forces circle through the theatre while Connie executes a quiet murder of her own, the killers grow near their target and fate awaits.
Coppola stages all the action in nearly dialogue-free, non-stop cuts that build the tension toward a shattering climax in which all of Michael's sins come back to rest in his arms.
A flawed film, this third chapter still holds more talent behind and in front of the camera that most movies dream of and its gifts outweigh its troubles.
Ending on a nearly perfect flash-forward that balances a legendary scene in the first film, THE GODFATHER PART III is a big, sprawling conclusion to one of film's all-time best trilogies and gets a B.