Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Goodbye, Al Neri

One scene in particular stands out when I think back on the recently deceased Richard Bright’s portrayal of Al Neri, Michael Corleone’s bodyguard and enforcer, in “The Godfather” trilogy. In the second film, after Michael’s mother dies, he is seemingly moved by his sister Connie to reconcile with their dimwitted brother, Fredo, who Michael believes has betrayed him. Michael had previously told Neri that no harm was to come to Fredo while his mother was alive.

So Michael walks into the room in which his mother is laid out and walks over to Fredo, who is seated. Michael opens his arms and hugs his brother, who remains seated. Michael looks at Neri, who is standing across the room. Neri’s eyes briefly meet Michael’s gaze, then he slowly lowers his head. With that simple gesture, Bright tells us that Neri has been given a command that he does not want to obey but knows he must. At the same time, we see that whatever good was left in Michael is now dead.

It is among the film's most powerful moments, and for that alone Bright deserves his place in film history.

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