"Road to Perdition"
Directed by Sam Mendes.
Written by David Self. Based on a graphic novel by Max
Allan Collins and Richard Piers Raynor.
Starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Tyler Hoechlin and Jude Law.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 7/14/02
My roommate Laura came home Friday night and
“Justin, if you don’t give ‘Road to
Perdition’ the Opening Weekend rating, I will kill you.”
Since this was the first time in five years
that I was threatened by another friend to give a film a particular
rating, I was rather taken aback! Luckily, this was one of the best
movies of the year for me, by far the best studio film of 2002.
Director Sam Mendes proves that his debut
film “American Beauty” was no fluke; working from a script by Max
Allan Collins and Richard Rayner (who wrote the graphic novel on
which the film is based), “Road to Perdition” is absolutely solid.
The plot is pretty much what you saw in the trailer. In 1931
Chicago, hitman Mike Sullivan (Tom Hanks) goes out on an assignment
that goes awry, and what makes it worse is that his 12-year-old son
Michael (Tyler Hoechlin) witnesses the whole crime. When Mike’s
syndicate finds out what happened, syndicate boss John Rooney (Paul
Newman) has to place the blame somewhere and it surely isn’t going
to be on Mike’s partner Connor (Daniel Craig)...because Connor is
Mr. Rooney’s son. So, when the mob comes after the Sullivan family,
Mike takes Michael on the run as they try to outwit one of Chicago’s
best assassins, The Reporter (Jude Law), and re-establish Sullivan
as innocent of any wrongdoing.
The plot is very straightforward and hitmen
getting set up is nothing new. But, in a classic example of “less
is more”, Mendes has a film that speaks to the virtues of even the
world’s most filthy bastards and that looks just superb. The use of
shadows in “Road to Perdition” is cool and cinematographer Conrad
Hall (who, through doing some research, has been shooting films for
almost 50 years) really puts in some amazing shots in the film,
including just about my favorite scene of the year, a scene late in
the film that I just can’t give away. Needless to say, it’s cool.
But, the film is cool because when you think about it, nothing about
“Road to Perdition” seems that hard—there are no long speeches that
needed to be written, not many special effects shots in the film,
simple locations and lots of black wardrobes. The genius is in the
And, part of those details are the
performances by the four leads—Hanks, Newman, Hoechlin and Law.
Newman just being in the film adds so much weight to what should be
a very hackneyed character—the mob boss. But, just Newman’s scene
where he winks at the Sullivan boys early in the picture is great
because of that familiar smile that Newman flashes. Law—who doesn’t
show up until almost the halfway point of the film—is scary just
with his bad teeth and shabby fingernails. When Mike and The
Reporter meet for the first time, the scene is much more tense that
that shoulda-been-a-classic scene from “Heat” where Pacino and De
Niro squared off. Here, Mendes creates sparks just by having the
two talk about what The Reporter does for a living; you have to see
it to know what I mean. Hoechlin is that rare child actor that
makes you buy into a character; more than just reading lines, he is
allowed some sensitive moments to show off his range and he handles
those scenes well.
But, one senses with this character that Tom
Hanks really can play it all. I will be angry if he receives an
Oscar nod for this role—I don’t think he is THAT good!—but, by
playing a nearly-soulless killer, one senses that he could pull off
anything. A lot of Hanks’ performance is the way he is filmed in
“Road to Perdition”—with that half-tasche under his nose and that
hat only revealing his killer-instinct eyes, he does look more
intimidating than he ever has before. But, he really gives this
role some flavor with some light comic moments and some vengeful
sequences after he realizes that he has been sold out by his former
employers in the mob. “Road to Perdition” also features some great
supporting turns by Stanley Tucci and Dylan Baker.
Overall, a strong film. We’ll see what
happens come Oscar talk time at the end of the year, because this
film is sure to be mentioned amongst the top films.
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard