In 2000, on this day The Godfather Part IV is released. Co-written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, it is the fourth instalment of the film saga detailing the life and times of the Corleone crime family. Godfather Part IV by Gerry Shannon
The film tells the story of the rise of Don Vincent Mancini-Corleone (Andy Garcia) from the early- to mid-90s as he is forced into conflict with foreign drug cartels when dealings with them go sour. This story is inter-cut with flashbacks to the 1930s, borrowing much of it's material from Mario Puzo's original novel, and featuring the rise of Vincent's grandfather in New York, Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro, reprising his 1974 role) and his early success as Don while his children come to terms with his criminal legacy - chiefly from the POV of his eldest, Santino or Sonny (played by Leonardo DiCaprio, in the role made famous by James Caan in the original), the father that Vincent never knew. Al Pacino also briefly reprises his role as the ageing embittered Michael Corleone retired and alone in Sicily, in a memorable scene with Garcia set before Michael's death in the third film's coda, in which the former Don reveals the fate of his adopted brother Tom Hagen in a chilling monologue on family loyalty and betrayal. (Hagen was played by Robert Duvall, and notably abscent from Part III).
There is much industry and public skeptism prior to release, given the reaction to the much critically malinged 1990 third instalment, most especially the casting of DiCaprio as the young Sonny, him then being better known for heartthrob roles in Titanic or Romeo and Juliet. However early reviews and audience word-of-mouth prove surprising for Coppola and Paramount studios, with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times saying, "Make no mistake: This is the kind of Godfather sequel we should have got in 1990. Coppola and Puzo's screenplay should be commended for very definitely ending the saga of the Corleones with great style and the powerful thematic qualities we've come to expect".
The film also earns several Oscar nods, winning 'Best Picture' (though in a surprise move, Coppola looses Best Director to Steven Soderbergh for Traffic), 'Best Actor' for Garcia, 'Best Supporting Actor' for DiCaprio and 'Best Adaptated Screenplay' for Coppola and Puzo. The last award is tinted with some tragedy however, given Mario Puzo's death shortly the previous year before the film's release, and Coppola's emotional tribute to his late collaborator is cited as one of the most moving Oscar speeches of all-time. Leonardo DiCaprio's win, meanwhile, kicks off further critical acclaim over the next decade by building on the early promise of his acting career - going on to further acclaim with leading roles in The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can, Blood Diamond, The Departed, and most especially his stunning portrayal as the villain the Joker in two Batman sequels, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Returns.