Heed no advice.

Yesterday I watched The Godfather for the first time in… oh, at least a few days. My favorite scene is when Michael makes his bones by killing Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey in the restaurant.

There are so many elements in the scene that make it great: the red-checkered tablecloths that remind me of my grandmother’s kitchen. The lack of subtitles as Michael and Sollozzo speak Italian. Michael searching for the gun that he hopes had been planted as planned. The intensifying screech of the approaching train. The blood mist.

But what makes that scene my favoritest? Think back to a little bit earlier in the movie, when Clemenza prepares Michael for his mission. Clemenza gives him a few very specific instructions:

1. After finding the gun, come out blasting.
2. Two shots in the head apiece.
3. Don’t look anyone in the eye.
4. Let the gun slip out of your hand so everyone thinks you still have it.

So what does Mike do?

1. After leaving the restroom, he waits nearly a minute before opening fire.
2. He shoots Sollozzo only once (but in fairness to Mike, it was an obvious kill).
3. After killing them, he stares at the bodies for a few seconds, and then stares right at the witnesses for a few seconds.
4. On his way out the door, he tosses the gun and keeps his hand in the air.

In short, aside from killing the cop and the mobster, Mike does nothing Clemenza told him to do. Keep in mind that this is all on top of the fact that it was Michael himself who first proposed killing Sollozzo and NYPD Captain McCluskey—even though killing policemen was considered off-limits by the underworld, according to the consigliere.

That incongruity has always amused me, especially since things turn out relatively well for Mike. He ends up wiping out his enemies and becoming lord of a billion-dollar criminal empire. In fact, aside from the murder of his oldest brother, the murder of his first wife, the murder of his second-oldest brother, his second wife’s “miscarriage,” his divorce, his estrangement from his son, and the murder of his daughter, he faces no karmic punishment whatsoever for breaking the unwritten rules and ignoring Clemenza’s instructions.

Michael’s brother Fredo was played by an actor named John Cazale. Every movie he appeared in was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. And it wasn’t because he was just in one movie; he was in five before he died in the late seventies (Godfather I and IIThe ConversationThe Deer HunterDog Day Afternoon), and appeared in a flashback in Godfather III. That’s gotta be some sort of record.

5 Responses to “Heed no advice.”

  1. Andrew Jackson Says:
    September 10th, 2007 at 1:10 AM: Jumping out of character for a moment…

    For my Writing for Mass Communication class (a rigorous AP style course), we were assigned to write about our favorite movie, and we were given 50 minutes to write and proofread. Every grammatical mistake = 5 points off, spelling mistake = 10 points off, factual error = 20 points off. And that’s all after the content grade.

    I wrote about how I fell asleep during the mattresses sequence the first time I watched The Godfather, and when I woke up, Mike was in Sicily, and I hated the movie for a while until I watched it again and fell in love with it (run-on sentence = -5). I got a high content grade but I made a few comma errors and ended up with a B-.

    What I’m saying is this: my content grade would’ve sucked if it weren’t for your instruction all those years (3?) ago. Though it would’ve helped if you grilled me on commas. So thanks for nothing.

  2. VDV Says:
    September 10th, 2007 at 5:03 PM: No problem.
  3. As Im A Bassi Says:
    September 16th, 2007 at 8:12 PM: On a completely unrelated note, I just noticed that the title of this blog post “Heed No Advice” would actually make a great title for a Bond movie. Perhaps, with Beth Gibbons of Portishead fame, singing the title song.
  4. VDV Says:
    September 16th, 2007 at 8:20 PM: Bassi–

    That is the second finest compliment I have ever received.

  5. As Im A Bassi Says:
    September 17th, 2007 at 6:30 AM: Which, ultimately, begs the question…