He spoke Sicilian, not Italian. There is a difference.
- "One thing must be understood. I would never go against The Godfather. Don Corleone is a man I respect. I understand he must put his sons before me in the family business."
- ―Luca Brasi[src]
- "There are men in this world who go about demanding to be killed. They argue in gambling games; they jump out of their cars in a rage if someone so much as scratches their fender. These people wander through the streets calling out "Kill me, kill me." Luca Brasi was such a man. And since he wasn't scared of death, and in fact, looked for it... I made him my weapon. Because I was the only person in the world that he truly hoped would not kill him. "
- ―Vito Corleone[src]
Born in an Italian family in Rhode Island, Luca had an unhappy childhood due to an alcoholic father who would frequently beat both him and his mother. Eventually Luca decided he had had enough and killed his father with a two-by-four, shortly after his father had induced a miscarriage in his wife by stabbing her in the abdomen. Soon after, Luca killed one of his neighbours, Mr. Lowry, by pushing him off the roof in revenge for impregnating his mother.
Around this time he met Kelly O'Rourke, who became his girlfriend. Luca was incredibly possessive of her (nearly killing Tom Hagen for sleeping with her, (even though Tom hadn't known she was his girlfriend) and sometimes beat her, but also had a strange, deep affection for her.
However, when she became pregnant, Luca attempted to force her to have an abortion, which she refused. On the day of his son's birth, he forced the midwife, Filomena under penalty of death, to hurl his own son into a furnace, an act for which she never forgave herself, describing Brasi as an "unholy demon". He claimed that "I don't want any of that race to live." It was unknown whether he meant that it was because the child was half Irish, born of a prostitute, or that it was his child, and felt that he was doing the world a favor by removing his bloodline from it. Filomena at first refused, but Luca slashed her arm with a knife and threatened her, and then she obliged and tossed the child into the furnace. After she did so, Filomena fled from the house sobbing. Filomena later left for Sicily, where she was employed by Don Tommasino. Accounts differ as to whether Kelly died in childbirth or was killed by Brasi some days later.
After Kelly's death, Brasi allowed himself to be arrested, after first taking an overdose of pills that left him with permanent brain damage, slowing his speech and ability to think. He tried to kill himself in his cell with a broken bottle by slashing his throat open but failed. Don Vito Corleone intervened, covering up Brasi's crime and earning Brasi's undying service and loyalty.
The tales of Brasi's prowess soon became legend. One such incident involved Brasi killing off Benny Amato and Joey Daniello, two of Al Capone's henchmen hired to kill Don Corleone. Brasi subdued both of them and tied and gagged them with towels stuffed in their mouths. He then leisurely hacked Amato to pieces with an axe. When he went to finish off Daniello he found that he had gone through a shock convulsion and choked to death on the towel.
Brasi's talent, it was said, was that he could do a job, or murder all by himself, without confederates or backup who might rat him out. Since Luca made sure to leave no witnesses either, this made a criminal conviction almost impossible. He is also known for killing, in two weeks, six men who attempted to kill Don Corleone at a festival. One of their men had managed to put the Don in the hospital, which prompted Luca's killing spree, and he might have continued had Vito not recovered enough to call him off. These six deaths ended the famous "Olive Oil War". His almost fanatical loyalty to Don Corleone was unquestioned, and was said to have killed a Corleone soldier just for making the Corleone family look bad. Brasi often claimed that he'd sooner kill himself than betray the Godfather. Since Vito was the only one who could halt one of Brasi's rampages, this made the Godfather a far more risky Don to attempt killing than the others.
Luca's killing ability, his strength in a fight, and the sheer terror his reputation generated in the New York underworld was said to account for nearly a third of the Corleone's military strength, just by himself (for reference, the Corleones had three entire regimes comprised of nearly a hundred button men as the other two thirds of it's fighting strength).
At Connie's wedding, Michael Corleone explains to his then girlfriend Kay Adams, the story of how Don Corleone helped his godson Johnny Fontane. Michael explains that his father went to convince bandleader Les Halley to release Johnny from a personal service contract that was holding back Johnny's singing career. After refusing an offer of $10,000 Don Corleone returned the next day with Luca Brasi and within an hour the bandleader signed a release for a second offer of only $1,000. Luca Brasi had held a gun to the bandleader's head while Don Corleone "assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract."
Brasi did not expect to be invited to the wedding of the Don's daughter, since he normally avoided public contact with the Don to protect the Godfather's reputation. Luca was very surprised and grateful when he received an invitation, and spent a great deal of time deciding on how best to pay his respects to his mafia benefactor. He gave a large sum for Connie's bridal purse directly to Vito, which was said to be the largest given by any of the guests. At the wedding he acted rather strange; reciting what he would say to the Don when he went in to thank him, presumably nervous about what to say to the Don at this important event.
- "I'm a little worried about this Sollozzo fella. I want you to find out what's he's got under his fingernails, ya know. Go to the Tattaglias and make them think that you're not too happy with our family... and find out what you can."
- ―Vito Corleone[src]
Shortly before Vito Corleone is shot, Brasi was summoned by the Don, who intends to draw out rival mobster Virgil Sollozzo and the rest of the Don's enemies by having Luca pretend he had switched allegiances. He did this by hanging out at Bruno Tattaglia's nightclub, and complaining about being held down in the Corleone Family. Bruno took notice of this, and began holding regular meetings with Brasi at the nightclub. He offered Brasi a job to work for the Tattaglia's as an enforcer. Brasi seemed swayed, but warned Bruno that he would no go against Don Corleone, but was promised by Bruno that he would not have to do anything against the Corleone's. On the night before the shooting of the Don, Luca met with Bruno who arranged a meeting for later that night. Brasi caught a cab to his apartment to prepare himself. Before heading to the meeting, Luca put on a bulletproof vest, and took a revolver with him with the intent of murdering Sollozzo.
At the meeting, Luca meets Virgil Sollozzo who wishes to offer Luca employment. Luca and Sollozzo discuss business while Bruno observed the meeting. Sollozzo, after promising friendship, a job, and $50,000, then rams a knife into Luca's hand, pinning it to the bar as an assassin garrottes him from behind. With Brasi dead, Sollozzo's men were free to attempt a hit on Don Corleone without fear of Luca hunting them down later. After Vito is shot, Sonny and the rest of the Corleones fail are unable to make contact with Luca, but assume that this means that the brutal enforcer is already out looking for reprisal. Sonny feels confident that his father's would-be assassins will soon be dead. A traditional Sicilian Mafia message is later sent to the Corleone family: a fish wrapped in Brasi's bulletproof vest. The meaning is made clear to the Corleones: "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."
Brasi's role as personal enforcer/bodyguard to the Don was later filled by Al Neri. Tom Hagen once said to Michael following the completion of Neri's training, "Well, now you've got your Luca."
Personality and Traits
Luca was shown to be the "strong, silent type", as he spoke very little. When he did it was either to Don Vito, his family, or when he did a job that required him to speak. He however was deceptively intelligent, something masked by him being slow in deciding what to say.
He was also shown to be very sadistic when it came to killing, and seemed to take great enjoyment in the often pointless cruelty and suffering he inflicted on his enemies. He was strong but also wise, as he brought a bullet-proof vest with him everywhere. This would, however, be useless as he was strangled to death with a garrote wire. He was not as bright as street smart, and would often have to rehearse what he said to someone before speaking with them.
Brasi seemed to resign himself to the role of a monster in human skin. He had no fear of any authority, and did not fear dying in spite of his taking precautions against being killed. He did not care who he angered, as long as he was feared, and he deliberately cultured such a fearsome reputation that even the top crime boss of New York, Giuseppe Mariposa, was afraid of directly retaliating against Brasi for buying his stolen alcohol shipments, to the point where Mariposa demanded that the Corleone Family kill Brasi instead.
Although he did make an effort to maintain his relationship with his mother, he hated visiting her. His mother, ashamed of how her son turned out, blamed herself and would incessantly bring up Luca's murder of his father every time he visited, constantly threatening to kill herself, which always greatly irritated Luca and gave him migraine headaches.
After Vito Corleone bailed him out of prison and covered up his crime, Luca became fanatically devoted to the Godfather, in large part because, even after his monstrous crimes, Vito was the only person left who still treated Luca as a human being worthy of respect, dignity, and value, when everyone else viewed him like a devil or a rabid animal that should be put down (Luca's own mother had taken her own life out of shame when she had heard of the infanticide). Rather than act disgusted at Luca's murder of his own father (and later neighbor) like anyone else, Vito instead praised Luca's bravery in defending his pregnant mother, and avenging the cuckolding of his father that led to it. In Brasi's mind, maintaining Vito's high opinion of him was the only thing keeping him going, the only thing he could still aspire to; the thought of Vito deciding to kill him was the only thing Brasi ever feared, as it would imply that he had lost the only thing he still valued: Vito's respect for him as a human being.
The Family Corleone seems to suggest that Brasi was originally quite intelligent, before his suicide attempt caused him brain damage. This is most likely an attempt to reconcile the differences between the film and book versions of the character.
In the video games
In The Godfather: The Game, Luca Brasi is dispatched by Vito to rescue Aldo Trapani, son of his former enforcer Johnny Trapani, from a life of petty crime. Brasi finds Aldo being beaten up by his gang and saves him by incapacitating the gang leader.
Luca then instructs Aldo to beat his other two gang members to death and directs him to hole up at the Grand Apartments, a Corleone safehouse, until he contacts him. He later calls Aldo to meet him outside the safehouse to teach him how to extort businesses by having him shake down Emilio Brunetti and taking over the racket of Frankie Fernetti.
After Aldo pays the protection money to him, he directs him to meet his friend Paulie Gatto at The Falconite, giving him his lighter so Paulie will know he sent Aldo. After Aldo deals with the punks harassing Maria Bonasera, Luca calls him and tells him to meet him near a station at Bowery.
Luca teaches Aldo how to use a firearm, before ordering him to drive him to The Luna Bar in Midtown Manhattan, in order to meet Sollozzo and Bruno Tattaglia. There, he informs Aldo to contact Monk Malone in case things go wrong and is murdered by a Tattaglia assassin. Aldo however is able to take revenge and succeeds in killing his murderer.
After escaping back to the safehouse, Aldo contacts Monk over the phone but is unable to inform the Corleones about Luca's death until the following morning. He later succeeds in completing his revenge by executing Bruno Tattaglia, who was also responsible for killing his girlfriend Frankie Malone.
Behind the scenes
- Luca Brasi is based on Willie Moretti, who allegedly once threatened a bandleader to release Frank Sinatra in a similar way as Brasi threatened Les Halley to release Fontane. Moretti was also Frank Costello's strong-arm.
- While Luca is often labelled as an enforcer, the novel describes that he has more power and respect than the average enforcer. In the novel both he and Al Neri are labelled as "special" and that they are the most trusted, most loyal, deadliest and the most feared members of the family. After the shooting of Vito, even Sonny voices his concern regarding Luca when they have difficulty contacting him.
- According to The Godfather Returns, it was Luca Brasi who sneaked into the Woltz mansion and kills, then decapitates Khartoum and places the head in Jack Woltz's bed. This is also implied in a deleted scene of The Godfather.
- While in the movie he's a tall and imposing character, the novel describes him as a short and squat person, though incredibly strong and with a horrible temper.