Jussi Hulkkonen’s review published on Letterboxd:
Michael's failure to control his family and organization is mirrored in the syndicate's failed attempts at imposing corrupt capitalism on Cuba, both parallel stories of a rotten morality and venal, greed-based society which no longer values the honor and commitment at the core of the value espoused by the cosa nostra. Coppola uses the flashbacks to Vito's early years to complement Michael's story. More successfully used as a Thanatos contrast than as ironic retconning or seeding of serials and moments from the first film in origin story mode, these sequences provide a nostalgically wistful counter to the contemporary corruption of this legacy, originally built on a firm connection to family and out of necessity, now twisted by privilege and success.
Vito is less of a fuller realized secondary protagonist and more of a legend, presented as through a golden haze of half remembered impressions and moments coupled with stories of his honor and bravery. Elevating Vito to the level of a legend further emphasizes the futility and doomed fate of Michael's attempts to fulfill his father's legacy.
Pacino's performance takes on a brooding intensity which reflects both Michael's hubris as well as his disgust and disappointment with his family which slowly curdles Michael's sympathy and affection, driving him further into cold detachment and patronizing control, turning his back on the boyish softness and tender emotionality of the first film. De Niro effects an unmistakably Brando-esque performance in his voice and physicality, but makes it his own with an added brashness and youthful arrogance.
Coppola's direction becomes more ostentatious, lavishing in opulent set pieces in exotic locales and protracted showstopper sequences like Fannico's assassination. Coppola and Rota elevate the first film's classical use of score to an even more fluid, almost operatic form which gives the film an epic quality befitting its multi generational story and narrative scope.
Coppola's repetition of the climactic, third act taking of control execution montage is played out bloodlessly, action is excised from the frame, the focus on aftermath and the empty retribution afforded by these killings, thoroughly unromantic and inherently morally compromised.