When superfans speak of the superiority of The Godfather Part II, this is not merely to be contrary. Coppola took Mario Puzo’s pulp and darkened it with Nixonian paranoia and the power of political back rooms. The sequel’s decadence—Michael sweeping down on Fredo, Kay, all of them—is counterweighted by nostalgia, as we see the young immigrant Vito (De Niro) striving to protect his own. Thus we have the birth of a quasi-noble idea: the neighborhood defender. But De Niro, gun barrel blazing, plays it squirrelly, unsure if bad wheels have been set in motion. Vito’s son will pay the ultimate price, a descent that is the richest the movies have to offer.