Now under the control of Vito's son Michael (Al Pacino) who is aided by his lawyer Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), the Corleone family consolidates its grip on the Mafia by extending connections in Cuba and Las Vegas. Following the violence at the end of The Godfather, Michael learns that their is repercussions to his actions.
Meanwhile, there is a flashback to Vito Corleone's (Robert De Niro) arrival in America as a child. He quickly moves to establish himself as a feared leader, eradicating his enemies by necessity and building a huge base of friends.
The Godfather Part II was a rare species in 1974. Sequels of an original piece were often given a different name so that its (lack of) success didn't drag down the first. With The Godfather being such a critically acclaimed film it was a risk, but one that was oh, so worth it.
I prefer Part II. It expands the story whilst also cleverly taking us back to the film's roots. Arguably we learn far more about Vito Corleone in his flashbacks than we did in The Godfather as we see what drove him to set up the crime family. Meanwhile, we are also taught about what Michael did and often end up comparing him to his father.
My main issue with the first film was that I thought Marlon Brando was difficult to understand, but with Al Pacino at the helm, Part II has a much better flow to the storyline. That said, with De Niro playing the younger Vito and Robert Duvall taking a bigger role as the new Don's key adviser the acting line-up was never going to be a problem.
Again, its a marathon to run through at over three hours long (and on two DVDs!), but if you can sit still for long enough you'll be greatly rewarded.