By Will Barber Taylor
Based on a gripping true story. After the arrest of the biggest Boss, Totò Riina (the miniseries Corleone), control of the mafia is now in the hands of Bernardo Provenzano, the man who, together with Riina, climbed to the top of the Sicilian Mafia. Provenzano inherits a weakened mafia especially after the revelations of the witnesses, but his objective is to rebuild it thanks to a new strategy: no more outstanding murders or attacks on institutions, but a slow and invisible rebuilding of the economic and criminal relationships which, in the span of a few years, will permit the mafia to regain power. Nothing is known of the last godfather, not even his face. The only known photograph goes back to more than fifty years. Provenzano is a ghost and in order to discover his hideout, the Police decide to create a task force of twenty-five men whose sole objective is to bring an end to the longest concealment in the history of crime.
Following on from the conclusion of the powerful and textured Corleone, we move onto the sequel – The Last Godfather which is just as intriguing and well written. Set directly after the conclusion of Corleone, The Last Godfather is not a story of power or prestige, it is a story of decline and decay. With the fall of Toto Riina, the entire structure of the mafia is altered to ensure that Bernardo Provenzano, the man who hides his face from all, keeps control. The backbone of this story is the breaking of the mafia’s grip on Sicily and the battle between the police and Provenzano for survival. Only one of them can come out of this with their heads held high. Unlike Corleone, which focused on Riina and invested us in his rise to the top of the Sicilian Mafia, The Last Godfather focuses on the police’s efforts to bring Provenzano down. This therefore makes them perfect contrasts – reflecting both sides of the continual battle between good and evil for the spirit and souls of the poor, forced into crime by a system that is rigged against them.
The cinematography is excellent and perfectly fits between the smoky nostalgia of a 1930s thriller with the technological accomplishments of modern film cameras ensuring that the atmosphere is never dented but nor is the quality ever hindered or interfered with.
Michele Placido is excellent as the titular Last Godfather, Bernardo Provenzano. Placido brings a great sombreness and emotional weight to the part; he truly feels like a man who has battled his way to the top of a brutal world and intends to stay there no matter what. Placido’s facial expressions are often fairly neutral and his ability to switch from a benign state to one of pure hatred or joy is a quality which can only be witnessed by the sheer vigour of his performance.
In conclusion, The Last Godfather is an excellent conclusion to the saga that is started in Corleone but it is also a fascinating contrast to it. While Corleone is the story of a man rising through the ranks of the Mafia, achieving it and then falling under his own hubris, The Last Godfather is the tale of a man trying to hide his power rather than demonstrate it and of the police who wish to bring him down. It is possible, therefore, to watch one without watching the other. However, I would suggest that you watch both as they help paint a picture of power and its follies better than any other series about the mafia you are likely to see for a long time.
You can purchase The Last Godfather from Amazon here.