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Carlo Rizzi is a major antagonist in Mario Puzo's 1969 novel The Godfather and its 1972 film adaptation. He is the abusive husband of Connie Corleone who conspires with mob boss Emilio Barzini to have Connie's brother Sonny killed.
Rizzi meets Connie Corleone in 1941 at a birthday party for her father, Don Vito Corleone, having been invited by his friend, Connie's older brother Sonny. They begin dating, and, in 1945, they get engaged. Vito dislikes Rizzi, described in the novel as "a punk, sore at the world", but consents to the marriage on the condition that they have a traditional Italian wedding. He also reluctantly includes Rizzi in the Corleone "family business" of organized crime, but gives him only minor, unimportant jobs to do.
Rizzi begins abusing Connie almost immediately after the wedding, even while she is pregnant with their child, beating her and cheating on her to exercise power over the Corleone family, whom he resents for having the power and status that he never will. Vito is outraged by Rizzi's treatment of his daughter, but feels helpless to do anything about it because Italian tradition forbids fathers from interfering in their children's marriages. Sonny and Connie's two other older brothers, Michael and Fredo, also despise Rizzi, but only the hot-tempered Sonny crosses the line into threatening him.
One day in 1947, Connie calls Sonny after suffering a particularly brutal beating at Rizzi's hands, and Sonny confronts Rizzi in the street, beating him up and leaving him laying in his own blood in front of a crowd of people. Angry and humiliated, Rizzi goes to Vito's rival mob boss Emilio Barzini for help in getting revenge against Sonny. Barzini, who has been planning to eliminate the Corleone family, conspires with Rizzi to have Sonny killed. At Barzini's instruction, Rizzi hits Connie again, provoking her to call Sonny for help. Sure enough, an enraged Sonny starts making his way to Rizzi's house to beat him up again. On his way there, he stops at a toll booth, where Barzini's men are waiting for him; they emerge and gun him down.
A few years after Sonny's murder, Vito and Michael, who are now running the family together, give Rizzi a lucrative job running a corrupt labor union. When Michael moves the family to Nevada following Vito's retirement, he makes Rizzi his right-hand man, and agrees to be godfather to Rizzi and Connie's child. It is all a ruse, however, as Vito and Michael are lulling Rizzi into a false sense of security so he won't suspect they are plotting against him, in keeping with the family's motto, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
After Vito dies in 1955, Michael orders the murders of the heads of the other ruling Mafia families in New York, including Barzini, and resolves to deal with Rizzi, as well. After standing as godfather to Rizzi and Connie's child, Michael takes Rizzi aside and tells him that he knows he set Sonny up to be murdered. After a terrified Rizzi confesses, Michael reassures him that his life will be spared, and that his punishment will be expulsion from the family. He sends for a car, supposedly to take Rizzi to the airport. As Rizzi gets in the passenger side, however, Michael's caporegimePeter Clemenza surprises him from the backseat, saying, "Hello, Carlo," and garrotes him to death, thus avenging Sonny's murder.
Gianni Russo, who portrayed Rizzi in the film, claimed for years to have actual ties to the Mafia but said he gave up the lifestyle when he saw how dangerous it was. Russo once shot and killed a man in Nevada after the man attacked him with a broken champagne bottle, the act was ruled justifiable as Russo had acted in self-defense.