Henchman of the Week: Luca Brasi
Featured in: The Godfather (1972)
Specialty: Long term assignments
Termination: Stabbed in the hand and strangled, his death symbolized by a large fish.
Temporary Assignment: If temps prove their worth on a job, they may be asked back time and time again. Luca Brasi is certainly an example of that.
Luca is a longtime henchman for Don Vito Corleone, head of the Corleone organized crime family. Sadly, it turns out the Corleone's are not all that organized, no matter how many henchmen they employ (maybe they should switch agencies). They are in competition for power with five other families, and with narcotics becoming the hot new commodity, everyone is struggling to come out on top.
We hear about Luca before we see him. The Don's daughter is getting married, and the Godfather is doing business in his shadowy study, listening to the problems of all sorts of whiny peasants who need favors. The Don's lawyer and adopted son, Tom, mentions that Luca Brasi would like to see him as well.
"Is this... is this necessary?" the Don sighs. Like all CEOs, Corleone has little time or patience for underlings. But hey, at least he recognized the name, which is more than most bosses will do.
Meanwhile, Brasi sits outside, practicing what he would like to say when granted an audience: "Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your home on the wedding day of your daughter. And may their first child be a masculine child."
When the time comes, Brasi, tongue-tied in front of the boss like so many temps are, says: "Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter... 's wedding... on the day of your daughter's wedding. And I hope their first child... be a masculine child. I pledge my ever... ending... loyalty."
It's painful to watch. Brasi stumbling over his words, the Don regarding him uncomfortably, and small children running in screaming to disrupt things further. If Brasi had finished his speech by spilling coffee on the Don's desk, I'd have given him Henchman of the Year. Next time, Luca, say it with a memo.
Luca has completed several assignments for Don Corleone, as we learn from Michael, the Don's son, who uses his girlfriend's first exposure to the family as an excuse to spill about ten minutes of exposition (apparently, the mafia is just as gossipy an organization as any other). Michael refers to Brasi as a "scary guy," then tells a story about how Brasi once held a gun to a record producer's head to get him to sign a contract for the Don's Godson. The record producer agreed, and that's how Microsoft was founded. Er... wrong crime family.
As things heat up between the Corleone family and their rivals, Brasi is called into the Don's office. There, the Don gives him an assignment, to find out what a goon named Sollozzo has "under his fingernails, you know." Brasi is instructed to "go to the Tattaglia's, uh, and, ah, make them think that, ah, you're... you're not to happy with our family..." The Don pauses and looks at the ceiling, clearly just making this assignment up off the top of his head to keep Luca busy for a few hours.
Temps know this scene very well. They're paying you, so they've got to keep you busy. With something. With anything.
Brasi does as he is told, visiting Sollozzo and Tattaglia at a bar, where they offer him a job. Brasi asks what his salary will be, showing his priorities are in order, but Sollozzo and Tattaglia know it's a set up. Brasi's hand is nailed to the bar with a knife while a thug brutally strangles him from behind.
Later, Luca's bulletproof vest is sent to the Corleone's with a fish inside it, signifying that "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."
Isn't that just like a temp? Bringin' a bulletproof vest to a stranglin' fight.
Constructive Criticism: I need to point out that Brasi speaks both English and Italian, and being bi-lingual can certainly increase one's job opportunities. However, as a henchman, never, ever go out of your way to pledge loyalty to your Don. That's like a temp walking into his supervisor's office and asking "Let me know if there's any more work you need me to do!" If you're a temp, you could wind up spending hours making binder tabs. If you're a henchman, you could wind up dead.
Luca Brasi was played by Lenny "The Bull" Montana, an actor and former professional wrestler. He died in 1992.