How did Michael know?
March 27, 2009 3:15 PM   Subscribe

Question about The Godfather Part II:

How exactly does Michael figure out that Hyman Roth was behind the shooting at his home?

This is one of my favorite movies, and I've seen it many, many times, but I've always missed this plot point. OK, so Michael's home is shot up. He assumes (or at least appears to assume) Frank Pentangeli is behind it, because of the grievances Frank expressed at the beginning of the movie. Next we see him visiting Hyman Roth, and telling Roth that "Frank Pentangeli is a dead man", to which Roth replies "he's small potatoes". Then we see him visiting Frank Pentangeli at his father's old home, and telling him that he knows it was Hyman Roth. How does he know? Does he assume it's Pentangeli until he talks to him, and then it dawns on him that it was Roth during their conversation?
posted by DecemberBoy to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Roach, what the hell are you talking about? The entire post, with the exception of, "Question about The Godfather Part II:" is below the fold. Perhaps though you mean that you were not aware that "Godfather: Part II" might have an intricate plot which merits discussion? Or maybe a mod changed the post and put the spoilers under the fold? Seriously, I don't get the gripe here. Maybe next time the poster can use secret code that only people who have seen the movie can decipher!

As far as Michael knowing it was Roth - could it be maybe that Michael didn't know who it was, but thought it could have been either one, so he tells both that he knows it was the other one. Since Roth did it, he wants to take out Pentagelli so Pentagelli can't possibly defend himself to Michael. So Michael just deduces that it was Roth.

Maybe there is some clear clue that I've missed, but when I watched it I think Michael was just inferring it was Roth from Roth's behavior and from his belief that Pentagelli was loyal and wouldn't attack him.
posted by billysumday at 3:56 PM on March 27, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, I originally had the actual question above the fold, but really, this movie came out in 1974. It's one of the most popular and most-discussed movies of all time. There comes a point when you can no longer "spoil" something. No big deal, though, and I'd rather this not derail into a discussion about spoilers.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:08 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Michael Corleone and Hyman Roth are playing chess at a high level, and there's bad blood and tension from the start.

The Rosatto Brothers, backed by Roth, are giving the Corleone family a hard time in New York.

Meanwhile, Roth is fully aware of Michael's nature, and regardless of what he says, would not take kindly to the Corleones moving in on his turf in Vegas. (Would you? Ask Moe Green; there isn't even a plaque or a signpost for him!) Roth is following the same principle as Michael. "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."

Michael knows this.

Johnny Ola's presence is a suspicious cover to prevent a war after the hit, and there to make sure the would-be assassins are dispatched before they can talk. Michael undoubtedly figures this out early on.

("A guy who probably wants me dead has his consigliere in town the night I'm shot at. Hmmm...")

Indeed, there's no evidence that Michael EVER thought Frank Pentangeli was behind the hit, because A) Frankie doesn't have it in him and B) after the hit, Michael tells Tom that he's going to see Roth, and that he might not be coming back. (In other words, he's expecting to be killed.)

Perhaps Michael is taking a few leaps in logic, but it's never unreasonable to assume that Roth wants him dead. At any rate, Michael certainly wants Roth dead from the start. And Michael Corleone has a very tactical mind, as was demonstrated repeatedly in the first film and the novel.

Of course, the easy answer is that Johnny Ola brought Michael an orange from Miami, and oranges symbolize death in the Godfather movies. (Not that Michael would know this. But he's pretty sharp, so maybe he read the script in advance.)
posted by dbgrady at 4:13 PM on March 27, 2009

Response by poster: As far as Michael knowing it was Roth - could it be maybe that Michael didn't know who it was, but thought it could have been either one, so he tells both that he knows it was the other one.

That could be, but until he figures out that Roth was behind the shooting, he thinks Roth is his partner and that they're going to do this big deal in Cuba together and everything is all buddy-buddy. Pentangeli even tells Michael at the beginning: "Your father did business with Hyman Roth, but he never trusted Hyman Roth.", implying that Michael does trust Roth.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:14 PM on March 27, 2009

Best answer: How does he know?

He doesn't know. He systematically lies to everyone in order to draw someone into making a mistake that will identify them as the true enemy.

Unfortunately for both Michael and Fredo, it's Fredo that makes the mistake, when he reveals he met Johnny Ola prior to the current trip, which means he's had dealings with Johnny Ola, and by extension, Roth.

This is also why Frankie Five Angels is shown a bit of mercy by Michael, by vowing to leave Frankie's family out of it if Frankie takes his own life instead of testifying.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:58 PM on March 27, 2009

Yeah, I don't think that Michael ever suspected Pentangeli. The hit is too well-planned, taking place on the compound itself.

Where it gets confusing is that Roth decides to take Michael's suspicion of Pentangeli as permission to kill him to solve the Rosatto Bros. plans in New York, which leads the Rosatto brothers to tell Frank that "Michael Corleone says hello" before they botch the hit on him. This leads to Pentageli turning on Michael and planning to testify before Congress.

I think, anyway.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:00 PM on March 27, 2009

Best answer: Michael didn't know who it was until Havana, when Fredo messes up and mentioning meetin Johnny Ola before. *That*'s when Michael puts Roth's (attemped) assassination into motion.
posted by notsnot at 5:28 PM on March 27, 2009

Yes, notsnot has it right. Its Fredo's slip-up that's the give-away.

I also think Michael does plenty of playing one off the other to see who gets nervous.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:43 PM on March 27, 2009

Response by poster: Okay, that totally makes sense. Until Fredo's slip-up at the sex show in Havana he doesn't know who it was for sure, and when he tells Roth he knows it was Pentangeli and then tells Pentangeli he knows it was Roth, he's just lying to them and waiting for someone to slip up and accidentally reveal who was really behind it, which Fredo later does.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:17 PM on March 27, 2009

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