By Shane Gericke
"Leave the gun, take the cannoli."
"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."
"It's not personal, it's business."
"They shot Sonny on the causeway."
"Lucca Brazzi sleeps with the fishes."
And the headless horse in the bed.
It's The Godfather, and it's my all-time favorite crime movie.
Unlike most crime movies of the era, where the criminals were vicious, heartless, flat, and completely without depth, the Corleone family had a deep soul and a big heart. You couldn't help but like and sympathize with them, even as they committed crimes most brutal. With career performances from Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James, Caan, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton, and direction by Francis Ford Coppola, everything in this 1972 movie, from the dialogue to the symbolism to the lush photography and incredible score, worked perfectly.
It was based on a 1969 novel by Mario Puzo. I've read the book a few times and seen the movie a bunch. My wife Jerrle is a Godfather fanatic, having seen it twenty or thirty times, starting when she was a teenager and continuing today. We both believe the book enhances the movie and vice-versa, which isn't always the case with novel-to-movie translations.
Plus, it has all those quotable lines!
Other crime-iny I adore:
--The Godfather II. The only movie sequel that's ever matched the brilliance of the original, it continues the story of the Corleone family, and tells you why and how Vito Corleone became Don Corleone. Al Pacino is Michael Corleone, Vito's dad, and the new godfather of the family. Godfather III isn't worth discussing. It wasn't awful, just so far below the standards set by I and II that I won't watch it any more.
--Goodfellas. People called it a modern Godfather (God was set in the 1940s and 50s). I disagree--they resemble one another as much as rain resembles weeds. But each is brilliant in its own way. God was a romantic movie at heart. Goodfellas was a hard look at modern gangsters, and just how damn unromantic, and incredibly dumb, they could be. Remember when the babysitter/narcotics runner wouldn't fly without her lucky hat? Dumb brilliance! This movie was a dark comedy as well as a drama. It starred Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci, all of whom acted their hearts out, and was based very loosely on a true story about the Spilloto brothers of the Chicago Mob.
--Casino. Another modern mob movie, this one set in Las Vegas and starring Robert DeNiro and Sharon Stone. (And Pesci.) As with the others, the casting, writing, and production values were first-rate.
--Scarface. Al Pacino in his most wonderfully over-the-top role ever as a Cuban drug lord come to America to ply his trade. Chainsaws, cocaine, machine guns, romance, incredible violence. What's not to like?
--Bob LeFlambeau. To leaven Scarface, I present this gentler, but no less effective, offering. This movie is (a) French, and (b) much earlier than the period we're discussing, since it came out in 1955. But it was a sterling crime caper, all in French with subtitles, and I enjoyed it immensely for its look a a casino heist in postwar France. It's kind of a transition from classis noir to modern heist films, with a lot of character development. Plus, big cars, bleak French landscapes, and black-and-white photography. Another French movie of that era I enjoyed was Alphaville.
There are more, but I'll leave them for you to tell me about!
--I'm a little short of SHANE-O's this week, cause I'm at ThrillerFest in New York. (I'm deputy director, so it's a working trip, meaning no time to log on to the ol' computer and write y'all.) But I did finish James Rollins' thriller AMAZONIA, and it met every expectation I had hoped when I started it in last week's SHANE-O. Tremendous tale with sparkling writing, set in the lush Amazon with a really ruthless bad guy ... and a naked witch who enjoys killing people and shrinking their heads to wear as necklaces. Who can beat that? Two thumbs up fer sure.