One of George Will’s most sparkling aperçus is that football combines two of the worst aspects of American life: violence and committee meetings. Yet we watch football for the combination of bone-crunching brutality and strategic calculation — the violence and the committee meetings. The Corleones’ appeal is similar: a balance of meticulous planning and ruthless assassinations.
The Mafia world presented in The Godfather, which with its sequels has just been reissued in a Blu-Ray boxed set (it’s “the Omerta Edition,” so I can tell you no more) to mark the original film’s 45th anniversary, is set up like corporate America. During the five-family conclave, everyone sits around what amounts to a boardroom table, in suits, calmly discussing common interests even though the sons of two of the men present, and many others, have been murdered on the orders of men in the room. Don Corleone’s archrival Barzini says he would be happy to pay the don for his ties to friendly judges and politicians because “after all, we are not Communists.” Earlier in the film, during the interlude Michael spends hiding out in Sicily, there is a glimpse of a Communist poster. The implication is that America has avoided the Old World’s red disease, but gone too far in the other direction. You could — and one suspects that many liberals do —read the film as an oblique attack on “gangster capitalism.”