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In The Godfather 2, Frankie Pentangeli walks into a bar. A man puts a chord around his neck and says "Michael Corleone says hello".

Later on in the movie we find out that Roth ordered the hit as Michael confronts him about it. Why would the assassin say "Michael Corleone says hello" if Roth ordered the hit?

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6 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

According to the Godfather Wiki, the attempt on Pentangeli's life was intended to fail.

Shortly before the Cuban fiasco, the Senate began hearings on the impact of organized crime. The subcommittee's lawyer, Questadt, was on Roth's payroll, and alerted Roth. Seeing a chance to eliminate Michael from the scene, Roth had the Rosatos try to kill Pentangeli and make him think that they did so on orders from Michael. Pentangeli tells the FBI that Michael is really a powerful Mafia leader who controls all of the gambling in North America, and has ordered dozens of murders.

Read this way, the passing policeman was intended to distrupt the murder. This would give Pentangeli a motive to betray his oath and reveal secrets about the Corleone family before the Senate committee meeting.

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It was clearly an attempt to scare Pentangilli and not kill him. The cop walking in could have just been on his beat and noticed a darkened barroom when it should not have been. (Cops on the beat in those days would routinely check on things like that.) By failing to kill Michael originally Roth could now could turn Pentangilli against Michael by him being totally scared of Michael. The words "Michael Corleone says hello" was intended to do just that. Pentangilli had nothing to lose now to go in with Roth. Roth took the golden opportunity he had in Cuba to try to imply to Michael that Pentangilli was dead. (This is the business we've chosen) Roth now would get Michael in the Senate hearings by means of the velvet glove rather than the iron fist. There was no guarantee that it would work but it was still an ingenious thought.

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If the Policeman hadn't come in, would they have just strangled him to unconciousness and let him recover? It all seems very odd. How did Roth know he would go into witness protection and not go to war with Micheal Corleone? Frankie was head of the New York family so he had the muscle! So I take it that Danny Aiello knew the script well enough to know that Hyman Roth orchestrated it? If he didn't say the line, would it then be a mystery until the end of the film who was behind the attempt on his life?

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This was flagged as 'not an answer' - which I have some sympathy with - but honestly (as I will say so in a meta post later) I'm getting a little fed up with being asked to make judgements on what an answer is or not. We have voting for that. –  iandotkelly Dec 13 '13 at 16:24
    
Hey - here is the meta post that this occasion inspired me to write meta.movies.stackexchange.com/questions/1103/… –  iandotkelly Dec 13 '13 at 16:36
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This is a question I've been pondering for years and still can't quite come with anything. I don't agree that the policeman was part of the plot to disrupt the murder of Petangeli. It was the cops interference that resulted in the following shoot out leading to multiple deaths. So that just make any sense.

The night before, Fredo received a late night call from Johnny Ola asking if Petangeli was really going to make a deal with the Rosado brothers, or if Petangeli was bringing his "boys." Fredo didn't know and hung up. I was thinking maybe the "Michael Corleone says hello" line was said just to let Frank know the Rosado brothers were tipped off by the Corleones. Sort of a taunt. Not so much ordering the murder. Best I can come up with.

The whole point of Roth wanting to get Michael out of the way was to install Fredo as the new Don. That would have made it real easy for Roth to get the Corleons involved with his Havana dealings, which Michael was reluctant to do, and too smart to jump right in. But even that would have failed as we see Michael appoint Tom Hagan, not Fredo, temporary Don until it was all sorted out. Smart man that Mikie.

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I think its just a message to someone who they want to kill. I don't think that they intended the assassination of Pentagili to fail. Remember that Roth has one of the Senators in the Corleone hearing, so its not impossible for Roth to convince one of the senators to instruct the FBI to question Pentangili about Corleone since he knows that Pentangili would want to take revenge on MIchael.

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It might be best to ask these questions with your own post. –  MattD Aug 23 '13 at 2:29
    
If you would like to ask your own question, please use the link at the top that says "Ask Question" –  TylerShads Aug 23 '13 at 12:02
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There are some theories that Hyman Roth told the would-be assassins to say that as part of a larger plan to turn Pentangeli against the Corleones, hence why Tom Hagen says that "Roth played this one beautifully", but this raises more questions about how much of what went down (the random cop walking by, and the shootout that follows) could have been planned in advance.

One thing we do know is that Danny Aiello simply ad libbed the line and Coppola kept it in the film.

Personally, I think he did it to taunt Pentangeli by making him think he'd been duped and that Hyman Roth was able to turn a failure into an almost success, but that's just me.

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