Logging Mob Movies #1: The Godfather

The Godfather, directed by early filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, is such a perfectly-executed and ambient cinematic experience; but not only does the form endow a sense of mystery and intrigue, but also the content: The story, of a family of Sicilian gangsters, is as poignant and gritty as any gangster film created. The dynamics of the family is like that of royalty; each son of Vito Corleone has their own problems, idiosyncrasies, regrets, and fears. Vito Corleone, played by a toned-down and wonderful Marlon Brando. Hot-headed and heir Sonny played by a young James Caan. Tom Hagen played by Robert Duvall. And Michael, the army-hero, played by a baby-faced Al Pacino.

The film begins with Vito’s daughters wedding, Connie, played by Talia Shire. Inside the shuttered-windows, behind the desk with a cat on his lap, Vito greets the tradition of wedding requests. Men who desire the help of Vito to punish the type who the police only give help to. Vito’s steam releases in his calm, reserved manor, when a man asks bluntly for his help, while rarely ever coming to see him for the simple sake of his friendship; obviously, the man is very daunted for just being in Vito’s presence, a mob lord, a violent commander, a Sicilian.

Vito Corleone has one stance in his business that is irrefutable: no drugs. He believes it will create illegitimacy and unwanted attention. It is suspected that Connie’s husband is in the drug business, as he works as a limited-worker for the Corleone’s, but Vito does not act: It is Sicilian rule that you do not interfere with a marriage. The drug-trade is the main cause for the familys failure: Sonny shows interest in drugs, which is displayed in a meeting where he makes an undesired outburst, thus causing the drug-lords to kill Vito in order to make Sonny the Godfather sooner. When Vito is hospitalized after being shot several times in the back, during a planned circumstance where Fredo is with him, who most find dull and unfit to defend against the assassination, Michael steps up to guard his father. He knows that the assassins will come for him and finish him; this shows the shimmer of courage and devotion that will lead Michael towards becoming The Godfather himself.

The cinematography is upheld with grace and congruity: the end-scene baptism is a highly memorable montage and comparison, and evokes the often under-toned nature of the mob: Their conscience is as good as the people they love perceive it to be. Francis Ford Coppola’s legendary film is the benchmark for all gangster films: through it’s widely acclaimed release and critical-praise, it will never be forgotten.

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Carlito’s Way

Carlito’s Way, directed by gangster film auteur Brian DePalma, is a tantalizing view into the post-prison world of a gangster. It features Al Pacino as Carlito, Sean Penn as his unjust Lawyer, and Penelope Ann Miller as Carlito’s long-time love interest, Gail. Carlito has a heavy sense of regret and re-establishment, but also holds the idea that you don’t rat on your friends, his most dangerous of ideas; this gets him in a harmful situation when he is sitting in the D.A., asking to testify against his heinous lawyer. He refuses, no matter the result.

The main-plot of Carlito’s way is ex-racketeer Carlito’s attempt at getting clean and staying away: It follows him. Through family, through his area, and through the respect people have come to know him through. He has to get out, with Gail, and go live out the remainder of his life. The film boasts the usual great performance from Al Pacino, but Sean Penn should be noted for such a great performance playing an ugly role as a corrupt lawyer. As the lawyer, he perfects the nervous ticks, the coke-sniffles and paranoia, and the reassuring talk of his lawyer-magic; his character itself is an embodiment of unjust admiration, to be able to do what he does at night and wake up in his own office, with secretaries, doing the duties that a lawyer does.

Carlito still has the street-smarts he had before, but toned down; when a punk street-thug, Benny, approaches him in his night-club, asking for his girl who is with the lawyer at the time, the Lawyer pulls a gun on him: Carlito’s got to take Benny out back, for the sake of respectability in the club. He decides to give mercy though, and tells his men to just leave him: This might possibly tick something in the heads of his men, seeing that they will go nowhere in the Darwinian world of the streets if they stick with Carlito.

With powerhouse acting on all sides, Carlito’s way forms an allegory on the one-way train, the profession that once you get in, it’s impossible to get out. Complex, hard-hitting, and plain entertaining, Carlito’s way is one of the top gangster films by Director Brian DePalma.