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

Later on 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?

  • The notion that it was a taunt makes the most sense to me (the jig is up Frankie, we know about you and Michael). Even if it was added in post production there had to be some sort of logic as to how it would fit in the story line. My question is is any answer at all provided in the novel (or is part 2 part of any novel)?
    – user26977
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 6:00

15 Answers 15


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.


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.

  • 1
    That Aiello improvised this line in such a crucial scene is kind of amazing. In real life, or at least in other mob movies, the idea is that you will not know who your assassin will be and that they might be your best friend but you will get no warning. So to say, for no good reason, with no upside, something like Danny A. had the character saying is not very realistic. If the plan was to let Pentangelis survive and then blame Michael, would Danny A. have had that explained to him so that the line if improvised nonetheless makes sense?
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 12:40

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.


To make Frankie testify against Michael in the hearings. To turn him against Michael.


Regarding the "Michael Corleone says hello" line in Godfather II -- I really think the line was added later in post to solve a script problem. If you look at Danny Aiello closely in the scene, his lips aren't moving when you hear the line. I think the line was added later because there was no scene that explains how Pentangeli came to the conclusion that Michael had betrayed him. If Hyman Roth is really behind the hit, why would his hit man (Aiello) say that line? And later when Michael asks Roth who ordered the hit, why doesn't Roth just say, "Yeah, I ordered the hit. YOU told me he was a dead man. I just saved you the trouble." Just a minor quibble, though -- Godfather II is one of my all-time favorite films, especially the De Niro scenes.


Its a world of deception. Its believed by some that the Rosato Brothers were never really enemies of the Corleone's. That the traitors were really Fredo, Roth and Frank Pentangeli. The reason this is believed is because Michael is a man of revenge and if the Rosato's were traitors he would have killed them off in the final scene. The failed hit on Pentangeli was just dumb luck. The Rosato's were being cheated by Pentangeli and Michael had told Pentangeli to make peace with the Rosatos. In other words...Michael supported the Rosato's. All the Rosato Brothers wanted was what was promised to them by the late Clemenza. Another reason is the three that die in the final scene all had a motive to kill Michael. Fredo because he was passed over for boss, Roth because of the murder of Moe Greene and, and Pentangeli because he wanted to keep what was his.


These answers are either implausible or unnecessarily complicated. The "the assassination attempt was intended to fail" makes absolutely no sense. Were it not for the unexpected and unpredictable arrival of the beat cop, the murder would have concluded uninterrupted. The cop couldn't have been in on it, because he exchanged gunfire with the Rosatos. If the hit was a ruse, then the film should have provided a more plausible explanation for its lack of completion.

The best explanation is the simplest one. Coppola screwed up. He had a major plot point in the last half of the film in which Pentangeli plans to rat on Michael. However, he realized too late that this betrayal was completely unmotivated. So, in post-production he added the Danny Aiello line "Michael Corleone says hello".

That fixes the Pentangeli motivation problem, but it created a new problem: why did the Rosato brothers announce to Pentangeli that Michael Corleone was behind his murder when the film later reveals that Hyman Roth was the one who ordered the hit?

It is an obvious flaw in an otherwise outstanding film.

  • Do you have a reference for the "Coppola screwed up" portion of your answer? Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 21:01

There's one other explanation: Hyman Roth could have told the Rosatto brothers that Michael wanted Pentangeli dead and they would be doing him a service by killing him. After all, Michael had told Roth that Pentangeli "was a dead man" because he had supposedly tried to kill him. At that early stage Michael wasn't actually sure who had betrayed him (Roth or Pantamgelli). Since Roth knew he himself was the betrayer, ordering the hit on Pantageli was on the surface, a good idea, especially if Michael really thought he was the traitor. The botched attempt and arrival of the police officer wasn't planned in my opinion but once it happened, Roth made the most of the situation. Regardless of which theory is true, I do agree with you all that this point has always been rather unclear.


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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    – Tablemaker
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 12:02

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.


My answer is that it was a mistake that Coppola and Puzo missed. The hit was intended to kill him (the scene is actually based on a real life incident where a cop broke up a hit in a bar). Mistakes get made, even by the best. Just like the discrepancy between the date on Vito's tombstone in Part 1 (April, 1887) and the date we are given for his birth in part 2 (December 7, 1891 or 1892).

P.S. Although unrelated, Fredo was in on the hit. Who else drew back the drapes?


I've seen the picture dozens of times. Fredo had to have opened the drapes. My affirmation/answer is: Roth played it well enough to trick Pantanglia (sp?) into believing Mike wanted him dead-even though he did not (Frankie goes back to GENCO days-"old man, too much wine," etc.). The subsequent events with the hearings and even Frankie's brother's appearance show the power shift from Roth all in favor of Mike. The history lesson Tom obediently/reluctantly relays in WP after Frankie recants, ensures the brother's safety in Sicily both in punishment for Frankie's willingness to betray, and in a minor nod of gratitude for recanting. It is at this point that Mike's redemption is lost. Tom was right to question him, " do you really want to wipe out everyone?"


When its said" Micheal Corleone says hello" Its said as a taunt. As to say we know everything between you and micheal. Not knowing the assassination attempt would fail. This, failure alerts frank to snitch out mike. Until the end. Franks understands it wasnt mike but roth. Since he now knows the truth and now with his involvement with the feds. Theres no turning back and must commit suicide. Roth play beautiflly remark is the mental chessgame between hyman roth and mike. The hesitation when.asked who put the hit on frankie. hyman indirectly says he apporoved the hit.


Frankie knew during their unplanned meeting in his home that Mike was going to warm up to Roth and he felt betrayed, not so much because of what was said to him in the bar, but because he was savy enough to figure out Mike had made him vulnerable to Roth when the Rosato's tried to kill him. He realized Roth was basically given a green light by Mike when they met in Miami. Mike probably knew Frankie would be taken out after Roth replied that he was "small potatoes". I think this connects perfectly to what was said to Frankie as they were trying to kill him in the bar.


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?

  • 1
    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
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 16:24
  • Hey - here is the meta post that this occasion inspired me to write meta.movies.stackexchange.com/questions/1103/…
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 16:36

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