The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (Francis Ford Coppola, 2020) USA

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Streamed on Amazon.

The finale to the Corleone syndicate can be seen in Francis Ford Coppola’s latest cut, The Godfather Coda:  The death of Michael Corleone.  Coda is not a sequel to The Godfather trilogy, but rather a recut (or hack job) of The Godfather Part III (Francis Ford Coppola, 1990).  Back in 1990 when Part III was released, the criticism at that time was the weakness of the plot and Sofia Coppola’s lack of talent as an actress, but critics are often fickle.  The family’s transition to legitimacy is the driving force of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in The Godfather III, who suffers from mental and spiritual anguish for his past sins, namely ordering the death of his brother Fredo (John Cazale), who was the weakest link in the family.  We are briefed on all of this in the opening sequence of the original Part III, which is explained through a series of flashbacks.  Flashforward, and Michael, after donating millions of dollars, is about to be formally acknowledged by The Church and bestowed an honor by Archbishop Gilday (Donal Donnelly).  Michael is intent on legitimizing his children in mainstream society and hoping to impress his ex-wife Kay (Diane Keaton), his first love, to whom he swore he was not like his father Don Corleone (Marlon Brando, the original Godfather).  Along with family and friends, a Corleone nemesis Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) appears uninvited to the church celebration, and later reception, which is important and adds credence to the film in later scenes.
The corrupt Archbishop Gilday is head of the Vatican Bank and has accumulated a deficit of $769 million, but secretly agrees to trade The Church’s majority shares of Immobiliare stock to Michael, in exchange for $600 million.  This negotiation will set the Corleone family on a solid foundation in the international real estate market, until Michael discovers certain members of the board have committed fraud.  
The fundamental problem with Coda is that the entire backstory (see second paragraph above) of Michael’s angst and the road to legitimacy has been mercilessly and crudely cut from the final trilogy, in what appears as an attempt to further the franchise into a fourth sequel.  Chop out a good 40 minutes of the original, and we now have the opening sequence for Coda as the secret meeting between Gilday and Corleone (see paragraph 3 above).  In Essence, Coppola not only removed Michael’s source of guilt and anguish (which manifests in his declining health), but his connection with Gilday has been chopped, as well as Joey Zasa’s unexpected appearance at the church, leaving one dumbfounded  – the entire energy of the film has been removed.

**********************************Spoiler Alert**********************************************

The original Part III is a good film, and despite the 1990 critics’ complaints, the film can stand on its own, especially given the opening sequence of flashbacks.  Sofia Coppola was a young woman in 1990 and effectively portrayed a young woman (Mary), the daughter of Michael Corleone, so her performance was basically what was required.  The original Part III opening sequence is also very dramatic and operatic and tied significantly to the ending – which is also dramatic and operatic, much like the Corleone Family.  However, with Coppola’s Coda, that bookend balance is missing – no dramatic opening and closing, just a lackluster ending.  After the premature death of Mary at the opera house, flashforward to an aged Michael, sitting alone, in his yard, in Sicily.  The original Part III shows Michael keeling over from heart failure, much like his father.  Not in Coda, where we now have an open-ending, leaving Michael sitting in his yard, in Sicily, and very much alive!  Are we to expect a Part IV of The Godfather franchise?  This new ending also weakens the power that Michael has entrusted to Vincent (Andy Garcia) as head of the family.  My message to Coppola is this…why, Coppola, why? 
The Godfather Coda is streaming on Amazon Prime for $3.99, but my advice is to skip it and watch the original trilogy.

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