Today's column by George Will is another adventure in the alternate universe that is Willy World. In Willy World, The Godfather is a celebration of the criminal life, rather than an indictment of that life as the epitome of capitalism, family values, and the evil that can swallow a person whole once one surrenders to it.
I love The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II, Goodfellas, and The Departed precisely because these films show that, far from glamorous and exciting, the life of those in organized crime is squalid, decadent, and overflowing with violence. Precisely like American society as a whole. While I haven't seen American Gangster, it sounds like it is of a piece with this same tradition.
Will throws in a quote from Puzo's book, which shows exactly the point Coppolla's (sp?) film traced through a series of vignettes - organized crime is the logical extension of capitalism, rather than the antithesis of it. The violence employed is nothing more than the final logical extension of laissez faire to a market immune to the reach of legal regulation. The goal is the maximization of profit, by any means necessary. Corporations utilize corporate spies, various barely-legal strategies such as predatory pricing, undercutting competition, and the like. Taking out a gun and killing the competition because they are interfering with the possibility of making more money is just a strategy - "It's not personal. It's just business" is a phrase that Target and the Genovese's can use without blinking or feeling ashamed.
Will would rather read Puzo's book and see Coppolla's film as a celebration of a deviant lifestyle, rather than an indictment of that lifestyle and its inherent hypocrisies, which are nothing more nor less than the hypocrisies of capitalism magnified. That American Gangster seems to do this as well means it is not the antithesis of The Godfather, but another in a long tradition of exposing the horrid underbelly of American society and capitalism.