The Last Don II (1998, TV mini-series)


‘Power. Passion. Betrayal. It’s all in the family’

Directed by:
Graeme Clifford

Written by:
Mario Puzo (characters from the novel The Last Don)
Joyce Eliason (Teleplay)

Cast:
Jason Gedrick (Crucifixio ‘Cross’ De Lena), Patsy Kensit (Josie Cirolia), Kirstie Alley (Rose Marie Clericuzio), David Marciano (Giorgio Clericuzio), James Wilder (Billy D’Angelo), Conrad Dunn (Lia Vazzi), Jason Isaacs (Father Luca Tonarini), Michelle Burke (Claudia De Lena), Danny Aiello (Don Domenico Clericuzio), Joe Mantegna (Pippi De Lena)

When Don Domenico Clericuzio dies, his family has to face its many enemies. Son Petie gets killed soon after and an underworld war begins. Giorgio brings back Cross from Paris to lead the family. Cross only agrees to come back after his wife Athena Aquitane is blown up by a bomb meant for him.

You have to wonder how necessary a sequel to The Last Don really was. It is not like that film set the world on fire although it was a decent effort. There was no source material left from the Puzo novel, so the writers had to come up with an original story. They fail in this, as the story hardly contains anything new in the genre. They even copy The Godfather plotlines in a too obvious and non-convincing way.

Less prominent characters from the first film now have to carry this sequel. Aiello, who’s only in the first five minutes is sorely missed as the Don. Jason Gedrick simply does not have the acting skills to carry this film as leading man. The best character is probably Lia Vazzi, Cross’ murderous, Sicilian henchman who is out for revenge after his family gets killed.

Kirstie Alley has her moments as the tragic Rose Marie. Especially in the second half she is quite touching at times. Patsy Kensit does her best, but is not the spectacular addition to the cast that this film needed. Daryl Hannah obviously didn’t feel the urge to return, so her character Athena in her short screen time is played by unknown actress Mo Kelso. Joe Mantegna does come back and appears in some mediocre dream sequences as Cross’ father.

What really gives this film it’s deathblow is the ridiculous Hollywood side plot in which Cross’ sister Claudia runs a studio that produces the supposed hit movie The Fumigator, starring the terrible Schwarzenegger clone Dirk Von Schelburg who is named in the film as ‘the most famous actor in the world’. Really embarrassing. Action fans might find some value in this film, except that the acts of murder, betrayal and violence are stretched out over the too long three hour running time. Better use that time to watch The Godfather for the thirtieth time.

Rating:

Quote:
LIA VAZZI: “We can’t afford to be soft. This is not the time to be soft.”

Trivia:
Mario Puzo died on 2 July 1999 from heart failure. About a year after this film premiered.

The Last Don (1997, TV mini-series)


‘Power Isn’t Everything… It’s The Only Thing’

Directed by:
Graeme Clifford

Written by:
Mario Puzo (novel)
Joyce Eliason (Teleplay)

Cast:
Danny Aiello (Don Domenico Clericuzio), Joe Mantegna (Pippi De Lena), Jason Gedrick (Crucifixio ‘Cross’ De Lena), Daryl Hannah (Athena Aquitane), Penelope Ann Miller (Nalene De Lena), Rory Cochrane (Dante Santadio), Kirstie Alley (Rose Marie Clericuzio), David Marciano (Georgio Clericuzio), Christopher Meloni (Boz Skannet), Seymour Cassel (Alfred Gronevelt)

Don Domenico Clericuzio is a man that demands respect. His daughter Rose Marie has started a love affair with Jimmy Santadio. The Santadios are the sworn enemies of the Clericuzios and both families are against the affair. But the youngest son of the Don, Silvio, sticks his neck out to help the young love couple but gets shot to death by two Santadio brothers.

At Silvio’s funeral, Jimmy Santadio shows up and asks Don Clericuzio for Rose Marie’s hand. The Don agrees but tells them no family will be present at the wedding. Only Pippi De Lena, a loyal family soldier, will be there. But the Don is lying. After the wedding at the Santadio Mansion, the Clericuzio brothers storm in and kill Don Santadio and all of his sons. Pippi strangles Jimmy Santadio to death personally. He does choose to spare the life of Rose Marie.

After this tragic history, Pippi moves to Vegas to take over the Santadios’ business there. He marries the dancer Nalene and they have a son; Crucifixio. Rose Marie was already pregnant by Jimmy Santadio and at about the same time as Nalene, she gives birth to her son Dante. Now, with this new blood in the family, the evil from the past will have to be set straight. And the war between the Clericuzios and the Santadios is not over yet.

This enjoyable Mario Puzo pulp starts as the Sicilian version of Romeo and Juliet. All the typical mob story elements are there; family disputes, assassinations, illegal gambling and some romantic plotlines. It even contains a Hollywood side-plot in which Hollywood is compared to the Mafia. The cast of this Mini Series does fairly well. Danny Aiello, though no Marlon Brando, gives a convincing performance as the powerful Don Clericuzio who is as cunning as he is ruthless.

The other cast members also give solid performances, most notably Joe Mantegna as Pippi De Lena and Rory Cochrane as Dante Santadio. Also interesting is the performance of Kirstie Alley as Don Clericuzio’s daughter Rose Marie who has gone insane after her newlywed husband got murdered by her own family. The budget for this Mini Series must have been quite tight but it still has plenty of production value to offer. Those who like Mario Puzo stories will definitely enjoy this. Followed by The Last Don II.

Rating:

Quote:
PIPPI DE LENA: “This will be a confirmation which means the body will be found. A communion is when the body disappears.”

Trivia:
In the book the killing of the Santadio family is told towards the end, while the mini-series is told chronologically and therefore this crucial scene is shown in the beginning.