Lionsgate // 2011 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // August 3rd, 2011
Say hello to the new head of the family.
It's the 1950s, and Mob boss Don Carini (Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant) decides it's time to retire, so he announces that he will hand the reins of the organization to his son, Young-gu (Hyang Rae Shim, The Fool and the Thief). The problem is, his son is a Korean orphan who just immigrated to the US; he has no experience, no connections, and, worst of all, no brains. Carini entrusts Tony V (Michael Rispoli, Kick-Ass), his top man and ex-heir apparent, to the job of teaching Young-gu the ropes.
Alas, Young-gu is even worse at being a mobster than anyone could have expected. He is clumsy and inept and doesn't understand English well enough to be able to figure out exactly what's going on. When he literally stumbles across Nancy Bonfante (Jocelin Donahue, The House of the Devil) and sort of rescues her from a mugger, he becomes infatuated with her. Unfortunately, she is the daughter of a rival crime boss and trouble begins brewing when he constantly tries to seek her out.
It's hard to say whether the film wants us to root for Young-gu and Nancy to get together, since the former is at least twice the age of the latter. Certainly there is no romantic chemistry between the actors, although the film's humor doesn't seen to acknowledge it. (Young-gu was just trying to catch a fly, he didn't mean to knock Nancy backward and land on top of her and make their struggles to disentangle look exactly like they were having sex in her car!)
Young-gu proves time and again that he can't be trusted with even the simplest tasks, yet Tony V continues to send him out on his own. Oh, he botched collecting money? Fine, let's give him a loaded rifle and have him try to assassinate the opposing crime boss. Who could've guessed he'd drop the gun? Disgraced after a string of failures, Young-gu heads out on his own to prove he can be a bullying mobster. He threatens the hairstylist by covering her with hairspray and spinning her in the barber's chair. He attacks a dressmaker and chops at her skirt with scissors. He throws together a random assortment of ingredients at the local burger joint while tossing lettuce at the owner.
After thus inadvertently inventing the beehive, the miniskirt, and the Big Mac; Young-gu is praised by all for making the businesses he threatened much more popular than ever, but...wait, why am I trying to explain this stupid plot?
The Last Godfather is not about the storyline, it's all about Hyang Rae Shim; the film's writer, director, and star. Shim is a popular comedian and actor in Korea; the character of Young-gu was a staple of his act throughout his early career, and he made several movies along the lines of the old Abbott and Costello Meet [insert famous monster here] films. He wants to be a Korean Peter Sellers, but he's not even up to the level of Rowan Atkinson or Steve Martin. His physical comedy goes far overboard; everything Young-gu does or says has to have some quirk. He walks like a duck with a rash, he dresses like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, he snores (but in a funny way!) and his belly rumbles and shakes while he sleeps. Not a moment goes by when he isn't doing something bizarre. Instead of filling the film with laughter, it distracts from everything else around, and since he's the star of the show, the entire thing is one big series of distractions.
The rest of the cast does what it can with the stereotyped script. Everyone speaks wiseguy-ese, and laughs are supposed to be generated by Young-gu's inability to pronounce many of the words (such as saying "quiche" instead of "capice"). Keitel has enough screen presence to bring some substance to Don Carini and Rispoli makes Tony V the most real character in the film. The one and only credit I will give to the script is that it doesn't go the "spurned heir seeks to get rid of his unexpected competition" route; Tony V is as honest a gangster as you will ever find. Everyone else acts more as a caricature of their part, none more so than Huang Rae Shim.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is fine. There is no overt grain or marring, and colors are balanced if not vivid. The 5.1 Dolby surround stays mostly in the front; only the music makes it to the back speakers, which is too bad. They could have been used pretty effectively during the scenes with gunfire. The only extra is a trailer.
This movie has been done better. It was called Shark Tale, and while that film has its own litany of flaws, it is still vastly superior to The Last Godfather.
Guilty and sentenced to life in solitary confinement.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13