- "If Don Corleone had all the judges, and the politicians in New York, then he must share them, or let us others use them. He must let us draw the water from the well. Certainly he can – present a bill for such services. After all – we are not Communists."
- ―Emilio Barzini[src]
In the early 1930s, Barzini, along with his brother Ettore, became one of the Capos in Giuseppe Mariposa's organization. He began to grow unhappy with Mariposa after Mariposa murdered his friend "Tits" merely on suspicion of treachery. After Barzini attempted to assassinate Vito Corleone at a parade, (which turned into a massacre) he began to see the tide turning in Don Vito's favor, so he betrayed his boss Giuseppe Mariposa for Vito.
Rise to power
After Mariposa's death, Barzini took over the remnants of Mariposa's organization and presided as head of the renamed Barzini family. Under his leadership he rebuilt the family to be considered the second most powerful crime family in both New York and the nation, behind only Vito Corleone. Barzini had interests in markets such as narcotics, gambling and prostitution, and also had the foresight to be interested in Las Vegas and Cuba. He was also linked to Wall Street politics and the Mafia in Sicily.
Role in the war
Barzini was respected enough by Don Corleone to be invited to the wedding of his daughter Connie even though Vito knew Barzini attempted to assassinate him. Barzini had an interest in expanding into drug trafficking introducing Sollozzo to Bruno Tattaglia. Barzini used the Tattaglia family as a pawn to approach Vito Corleone. When Vito refused to participate in the heroin trade, however Sonny showed disappointment in the decision, Barzini and Sollozzo secretly conspired with the other families to force the Corleones to open up their territory to drug trafficking. After two attempted assassination attempts by the Tattaglia family, the Corleone and Tattaglia family went to war. Barzini's involvement was unknown and he was shielded from the war. Following the death of Virgil Sollozzo and Mark McCluskey, Barzini encouraged all the families to go to war with the Corleones because of the additional police attention sparking the Five Families War. However Barzini was most likely looking for revenge for the death of Sollozzo.
Barzini approached Carlo Rizzi with a plot to draw acting boss Sonny Corleone out to the Jones Beach Causeway tollbooth where he was ambushed and killed. Don Corleone forbade any inquiries into Sonny's death, instead asking Barzini to help him set up a peace summit. It was at this meeting that Don Corleone discovered that Philip Tattaglia, as apparent instigator of the war against the Corleone family, was not calling the shots. Barzini was the puppet master inconspicuously orchestrating the anti-Corleone alliance. Tattaglia betrayed his true and diminished role by desperately seeking Don Corleone's promise of peace, and turning to Barzini for his approval and guarantee of protection. Barzini had used his contacts in the Sicilian mafia to assassinate Michael Corleone with a car bomb. However, Apollonia, Michael's wife, was instead killed by the car bomb meant for Michael.
- "Barzini will move against you first. He'll set up a meeting with someone that you absolutely trust – guaranteeing your safety. And at that meeting, you'll be assassinated."
- ―Vito Corleone to Michael Corleone[src]
Not satisfied with the submission of the Corleones, Barzini began chipping away at their territories in New York. Unbeknown to Don Barzini, the Corleones were allowing Barzini to muscle in on the Corleone interests to lull him into inaction and soon after Michael returned from hiding in Sicily, he and Don Corleone began making plans for retaliation. At Vito Corleone's funeral, Barzini approached Salvatore Tessio to organise another peace summit where Michael was to be killed, which revealed Tessio as the traitor. However, Barzini didn't know that he had walked into a neatly arranged trap.
A few days after Don Corleone's death, Barzini was assassinated on the steps of the courthouse on Manhattan's Foley Square. Barzini came out to find Al Neri, disguised in his old police uniform, killing his bodyguards and driver. Before Barzini could react, Neri shot him twice in the back, as he turned to run away. Barzini tumbled about halfway down the steps, where he lay dead.
Personality and traits
Emilio Barzini had arguably the most modern mind out of all the Five Families' Dons, due to his comparative youth and experience in the current age of organised crime. He takes advantage of this experience and exploits what he considered to be the outdated ideas of his rival, Vito Corleone. He has little regard for the traditions of his culture and is entirely driven by profits thusly he would support heroin and drug trade, prostitution, racketeering and basically any other vice one could think of. He is frustrated by Don Vito's opposition toward drug trafficking, which Don Vito believes would destroy the Families (especially his) and their businesses in the future.
However, unlike the much wiser and taught Vito Corleone and a couple of other Dons, Barzini lacks foresight and is only attentive to what is current. Thus, he dismisses the Godfather's predictions of the mafia's downfall due to its association with narcotics, which would prove to be greatly accurate in later years.
His ruthlessness and treacherous nature are hidden beneath his charisma when socializing, as he shows himself to be courteous and reasonable when discussing the war with the fellow heads of organised crime. He is very witty and makes several jokes, masking his involvement with the much more obtuse Sammy Tattaglia and presenting himself to be neutral in the recent conflicts. However, this facade is not enough to fool Corleone and he quickly deduces that Barzini is the mastermind of the entire effort against his family.
In the video game
- "I knew it - I knew it would be you. This isn't the end of the Barzinis, I swear it!"
- ―Emilio Barzini[src]
In The Godfather: The Game, Barzini is the main villain and he made co-tribunal attempts to gain more ground in New York, notably in Little Italy, his rival's turf. But his attempts were thwarted by Johnny Trapani, a soldato of the Corleones. The game's strategy guide also confirmed that Barzini had some connections to the Rockefeller family.
In revenge, Barzini blew up Trapani's Bakery and murdered Johnny, sparing his widow Serafina and young son Aldo out of pure pity. However, the resulting scandal meant he had to withdraw from Little Italy, selling the ruins of the bakery to the Stracci family, his allies.
Years later, during the Five Families War, Barzini is initially confident of success, but begins to lose his grip following Sonny Corleone and Aldo Trapani's raid on the West Port Warehouse, which draws dangerously close to revealing the Barzinis role as the manipulators behind the violence. In order to save his public persona, he orders the murder of Sonny Corleone, but that backfires when Trapani chases after his assassins. He is referred to by the Tattaglia Underboss as "The Wolf" and "Puppet Master".
During the Baptism, Aldo is accompanied by Al Neri to the City Hall where instead of being gunned down on the steps, Barzini attempts to evade capture by Aldo. He is eventually cornered, and instead of putting up a fight, he admits defeat and taunts that the Barzinis are not yet terminated, something which can be canonically true if the player hasn't finished all of Al Neri's hits yet. The player then is left with the choice of how to kill him, finally avenging Aldo's father 19 years after his death.
If the player walks away, Barzini will not put up a fight and he can only be killed if spotted by Al Neri. If not, the game won't progress until he's dead.
Behind the scenes
- Emilio Barzini is believed to be modelled on Vito Genovese. Genovese wanted to become "Boss of Bosses" and ordered the deaths of rival mobsters in the 1950s. He was also a strong supporter of the narcotics trade.
- In The Family Corleone Barzini betrays his boss, Giuseppe Mariposa, during a meeting in a Brooklyn restaurant between Mariposa and Salvatore Tessio. When Barzini leaves the meeting, Salvatore Tessio and Tomasino Cinquemani murder Mariposa. This is a reference to Joe Masseria's murder after he was betrayed by his top lieutenant, Lucky Luciano, who also left a meeting at a Brooklyn restaurant in order for his assassins to murder Masseria. He also survives in the end of the book and his son is mentioned as well.
- Barzini is portrayed in the film by actor Richard Conte, and in the video game by voice actor Michael Kopsa.
- In the screenplay, Barzini meets Cuneo's fate, being shot in the revolving door by Al Neri.
- In the game, he is the only Don whose outfit does not share the colour with that of his mobsters.
- His theme song is Master of Puppets by Metallica. This song also plays in The Godfather: Blackhand Edition after the player interrogates the Tattaglia Underboss in The Tunnel Club during the mission "Change of Plans", however the player can't listen to the whole song as the mission objective is to get back to the Corleone mansion in 5 minutes while the song is roughly 8 mins long.
Notes and references
|Don of the Barzini crime family|
Giuseppe Mariposa (led his own gang)