Vito Corleone is a New York City don
Who is loved by his large family but feared by everyone.
When Vito’s godson wants a film role, it is his, of course,
Once the film director wakes up to the head of some poor horse.
Some lowlife named Salozzo tries to promise compensation
In the hopes the don will guard his new narcotics operation.
The don says “No” to drugs and brushes off his sons’ advice;
He prefers that mainly gambling remain the family vice.
Salozzo won’t accept a “No” and uses power and pelf
To knock off Vito’s chief hit man and shoot the don himself.
Surviving, Vito’s threatened by his many vengeful foes
But protected by son Michael who repels the lethal pros.
When Michael wants to kill the drug lord, finishing this feud,
Salozzo and his bodyguard are shot while eating food.
Then Michael, who until then had eschewed his father’s ways,
Goes off to hide in Sicily and that is where he stays.
When his son Sonny is gunned down, the don then sues for peace
Among the warring families and calls for strife to cease.
Mike meets a girl and marries her but soon she’s murdered too.
He goes back home and marries Kay, from whom he once withdrew.
Soon Michael is the family head and tries to move them west;
He tells his wife they’ll soon be legal so she won’t protest.
The aging don keels over while he plays with Michael’s son,
And Michael knows betrayal is near so something must be done.
While Michael sees his nephew christened and gives vows in vain,
He has the rival family heads and every traitor slain.
He kills his sister’s husband and denies the fact to Kay;
He’s now the new Don Corleone and Godfather this day.

This is it, the moment when it becomes absolutely clear that this is my list and no one else’s. It may seem unbelievable that this film that populates so many top 5 film lists is only #300 on mine, but I will try to qualify that choice. I will state right up front that The Godfather is a great film but not necessarily a great movie. That is to say, it is nearly flawless in its artistic presentation of fine actors and a skilled director creating a story full of nuance and intrigue, but, as an enjoyable entertainment experience that I, as a viewer, want to repeatedly watch, it falls short.

The superb acting, the impeccable costumes and period details, the instantly recognizable score, and its many iconic scenes are downright perfect, and, by the end, one feels saturated by this mafia world of Italian dons and murder as a necessary evil. While the opening conversations with Best Actor winner Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone and the horse head scene have attracted the most attention and parody, the part that stuck out to me was the tense hospital scene in which Michael tries to hide his father as echoing footsteps approach. Also, the bloodbath near the end that takes place as Michael “renounces Satan” is extremely effective in both its shock value and its confirmation that Michael has indeed gone to the dark side.

I suppose that is the problem: as impressive and compelling as the film is, I can’t get past the subject matter. I’ve already stated my dislike for most caper films, and gangster movies like this are not much different. They glorify crime and violence, and, while the final scenes affirm that Michael is evil now, he essentially gets away with all those murders. (The same thing happened in Part II, which I basically hold on the same level as the first; I’ll write a poem for it someday.) Considering that the Corleone family is the centerpiece of the film, it’s just a shame that I can’t really root for them; I suppose it’s sad when some of them are gunned down, but ultimately they bring it on themselves. As I said, the film does a wonderful job immersing the audience in another way of life, but, unlike Witness or The Horse Whisperer, it is a lifestyle I neither envy nor admire.

The violence and language are frequent, and, though the horse head scene has comparatively more blood, Michael’s shooting of Salozzo and McCluskey really shocked me with its stark realism, even if there was a lot of buildup to it. All this is not to detract from The Godfather’s truly iconic status; I definitely see why it’s so high on other people’s lists. It’s just not my preferred kind of movie.

Best line (predictable, I know): “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Artistry: 10
Characters/Actors: 10
Entertainment: 5
Visual Effects (overly realistic shootings): 5
Originality: 7
Watchability: 2
Other (language, violence, subject matter): -8
TOTAL: 31 out of 60

Next: #299: The Time Traveler’s Wife

© 2014 S. G. Liput