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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 18.94%
Average: 28.79%
Pretty Bad: 4.55%
Total Crap: 1.52%

8 reviews, 84 user ratings

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Road to Perdition
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by Scott Weinberg

"Well-crafted, thoughtful, and deliberate-and NO that doesn't mean it's DULL"
4 stars

For what's essentially a simply satisfying and beautiful-looking gangster drama, Road to Perdition sure does seem to come holding a lot of baggage: It's the second film for Sam Mendes - coming off no less a film than American Beauty; there's the tentative Oscar buzz and its requisite backlash; it purportedly has affable everyman Tom Hanks offering a decidedly 'nastier' character; and the film is based on a widely-appreciated graphic novel of the same name. Well, expectations only last a few months, while every film inevitably outlasts its own press, and Road to Perdition - as an actual motion picture and not as a topic of conversation - is a damn fine movie.

Michael Sullivan (Hanks) is known by his co-workers as 'The Angel of Death'. He's a calm, devoted and stoic figure, a legendary assassin who strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies and beams of admiration from his two young sons. Sullivan is under the employ of John Rooney (Paul Newman), a classy old mob boss who's winding his career down in Rock Island, IL. Rooney also has a son Connor (Daniel Craig), only he's a grown man as well as a despicable and untrustworthy lout.

Sullivan's wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) knows enough about his profession to not ask any questions, while his sons believe Dad and Mr. Rooney are impressive businessmen. It's on one of Michael's more ill-fated assignment that Mike Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) decides to stow away in the car - and find out the truth about his father's late-night trips. Predictably, the young boy spies on his father as some brutal slayings occur, and Connor promptly discovers him. Though the senior Rooney is sure the boy will keep his mouth shut, Connor takes some painfully drastic measures to ensure his safety and attacks Sullivan's family.

Realizing that his son is now the target of assassination, Sullivan and his boy hit the road for Chicago, hoping to enlist the aid of Al Capone's legendary crime syndicate.

The biggest joy you'll have sitting through Road to Perdition comes simply by watching great actors act. It's a joy to see Hanks portraying something a bit darker than usual, though his character is by no means the cold-blooded mercenary from the source material. As for Paul Newman, he may keep getting a bit older-looking in each successive film, but he's such a pure pleasure to watch, and the veteran actor gets a handful of really meaty lines to sink his teeth into.

The supporting cast is no less impressive, with Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley) as a joyously colorful standout. Playing one of moviedom's most eccentric hitmen ever to grace the screen, Law's performance is a cacophany of bizarre tics and exaggerated affectations. My only complaint is that we should have had more of him. Tyler Hoechlin is grounded and real as Michael Jr., pleasantly free of the precociousness found in many young actors. As Rooney's maniacal son Connor, Daniel Craig (Tomb Raider) delivers an intense, glowering, and altogether spooky character. In a movie populated by less talented actors, Craig would steal the show entirely. Familiar faces Jennifer Jason Leigh and Stanley Tucci pop up in smaller roles, but you always get a little something sweet from solid character actors like these.

Story/screenplay: solid stuff. Acting performances: strong as hell across the board. Let's talk about the look of this film. In a word - Wow. If this movie were a car, it would be a shiny black BMW, just waxed and shiny from a sudden rainstorm. The cinematography of longtime great Conrad Hall (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, In Cold Blood) is fluid, sleek, crisp as a bell - while the production design of Dennis Gassner (The Hudsucker Proxy) and art direction of Richard Johnson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) combine to create a gloriously gorgeous glimpse of 1930's mid-America (particularly Chicago) as a backdrop for this icy tale.

Though it may not be as 'deep' as most people seem to be expecting, Road to Perdition works successfully on more than one level: it's a crisp and entertaining 'tommy-gun'-style crime drama, as well as a tale of devotion between fathers and sons - be they biological or 'adopted'. The movie features four superlative acting performances, and a surprisngly effective turn from a young newcomer. Road to Perdition is also a movie that's simply a joy to look at, and while those who adore the film's source material may disagree, it's a poignant, engrossing and altogether enjoyable old-fashioned gangster saga.

Is Road to Perdition an "Oscar-caliber" movie? Well who cares? If you go in to every "drama flick with a pedigree" expecting Oscar Gold, you're going to be selling some very good movies very short. Oscars come once a year. This is a damn good movie opening today.

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originally posted: 07/12/02 14:25:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell overrrated imho 1 stars
10/08/09 MP Bartley Elegant and beautiful, but Mendes keeps you at arms length from the emotions of the piece. 4 stars
6/29/09 budo Very good movie. Dark, as it should have been. 5 stars
12/21/08 Shaun Wallner Kept me on the edge of the seat! 5 stars
3/03/08 ladavies I liked this movie. Maybe Tom Hanks was miscast, but it really held my interest. 4 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White slow with a few redeeming qualities 3 stars
5/17/07 ES Didn't hate it, didn't love it 3 stars
11/17/06 Alyssa Hale Booooring!!! Terrible 2 stars
9/08/06 Thomas Semesky Interesting characters. A little slow at times. Enjoyed Jude Law's character the best. 4 stars
8/04/06 Quigley Very good acting, music and screenplay. Even when Hanks plays a bad guy he still rules. 4 stars
6/09/06 Frank Rountree Another waste of Tom Hanks time. 2 stars
3/09/06 Wiseman Exellent Mob film. 5 stars
10/01/05 Jonathon Holmes a great mob film 5 stars
9/12/05 Melody Film that falls apart midway through - not at all believable! 2 stars
7/13/05 malcolm Godfather-like. Hanks awesome as usual. 4 stars
3/27/05 indrid cold Gorgeous production, but surprisingly boring. Jennifer only in it for about 45 seconds! 3 stars
3/07/05 Dan GREAT! 5 stars
2/21/05 Captain Craig Hanks should stay away from bad guy parts. Its just not him! 3 stars
12/13/04 Nicole The ending is great! 5 stars
10/18/04 Naka Flawed, could have been much better. but still thouroughly excellent. 4 stars
10/17/04 Pollo Great movie. Just see it!!! 5 stars
9/14/04 Daveman Gorgeously photographed but plodding and emotionally hollow, quite a waste of time. 2 stars
6/25/04 Karen Stockdale Wonderfully acted and wonderfully filmed - this film oozes quality and class 5 stars
2/25/04 Soulis with all this acting talent, I was hoping for more 3 stars
2/17/04 ettore morello Near to Godfather 5 stars
1/28/04 x-nonymous A damn good piece of gangster cinema. 5 stars
1/18/04 steve andrews The film shows patience with it's slow crescendo. Hanks eyes speak more than the dialouge 5 stars
12/01/03 I Would A story with so much potential turned into a piece of Hollywood fluff. 3 stars
8/11/03 Nicole Great movie 4 stars
8/04/03 Shane Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A very well scripted movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
7/27/03 Monster W. Kung Melodramatic, predictable, and cartoonish, partially saved by good cinematography. 3 stars
6/15/03 Jack Sommersby High style can't hide a cliched script, yet it's watchable. 3 stars
6/06/03 Charles Tatum Really a perfect film 5 stars
5/28/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!!!) Dude, Conrad Hall is the coolest cinematographer. Camerawork is GREAT. 5 stars
5/17/03 George Jung One of the best films of 2002. 5 stars
4/29/03 Jin Best film I've seen in a long time. Hanks was astounding! 5 stars
4/18/03 Phil M. Aficionado Excellent cast provides solid entertainment; not A+ though 4 stars
4/18/03 Doc Shock Enjoyed this flick. 4 stars
4/06/03 Jessel Great atmospheric movie with a solid plot. Hanks excels. 5 stars
3/14/03 brentley Very enjoyable. Newman deserved the Oscar nomination. 5 stars
3/02/03 R.W. Welch High body count mob pic with outstanding turn by Newman. 4 stars
3/02/03 Rob P S Superbly done from top to bottom. 5 stars
2/07/03 123 stylish, well acted 4 stars
2/02/03 crazyquiverlips best movie of the millennium 5 stars
1/29/03 fraz not much of a story but beautifully filmed & superb understated acting 5 stars
1/19/03 Monster W. Kung Average, nothing more, nothing less. Comparisons to The Godfather are simply moronic. 3 stars
1/14/03 alien assassin I hope Paul Newman receives an Oscar for his performance 5 stars
1/06/03 . Just a great movie, if u like mob stuff, this one is great! 5 stars
12/12/02 Heat-seeking Mistletoe Tom Hanks as a mob hitman? Works in a sort of foul-tasting way 3 stars
12/07/02 ownerofdajoint astudyonhowepeopleonaresometimesdoomedfromthestartandfreewillisthetalkofrichfolks 4 stars
12/03/02 George Jung The best movie of 2002, but that's still not saying much. 5 stars
11/22/02 Merrie Wonderfully acted to a wonderful story line 5 stars
10/28/02 Yakov Friedland beautiful and mesmerizing, a dream rising from hell 5 stars
10/16/02 James Renwick Nothing great but worth seeing 3 stars
10/14/02 paperboy the road to sedation is more like it. 3 stars
10/12/02 Jens Boooooring, like "In the line of Fire". Only worse 2 stars
10/01/02 Paul Murphy Good enough film, but somwhat overated 4 stars
9/12/02 Bueller Epic. Newman is incredible. Law is disgusting. This is one of the best films of the year. 5 stars
9/02/02 Mark Struzinski GOOD STUFF!!! 5 stars
8/27/02 James Drake This movie is fucking awesome, without a doubt will win Oscar for best film. 5 stars
8/26/02 Tony Erik is a bit too much in love with his own prose to get the point of the movie. 5 stars
8/23/02 I Can't Swim No big deal. Why everyone is creamin in their pants is a mystery to me 3 stars
8/19/02 Mr. Hat (I'm Back!) The greatest camerawork ever! 4 stars
8/17/02 LyonHeart44 Darkness on the Edge of Town, transferred to film. Of course I loved it. Summer Oscars. 5 stars
8/17/02 Scott Dont bash it for not being the Godfather. A great story of revenge. Perfect camera angles 5 stars
8/11/02 Suzz exquisite film making 4 stars
8/07/02 Al Q Bobson Not the next "Godfather." It's pulpy and too tidy. Pretty, though. 4 stars
8/05/02 Christine Distinctly common -- A disappointment 3 stars
7/29/02 stoolie-bird nuttin' special....and who couldnt see that ending coming a mile away! 3 stars
7/28/02 max zhang Tom Hanks is a gangster = me as an intimidating black man 2 stars
7/25/02 Jon Not bad. But not great either 3 stars
7/23/02 Bueller Oscar nom. worthy perfromances from Hanks, Newman and Law. A darkly told Father-Son story. 5 stars
7/22/02 Cris Quite good. Cinematography was top-f'in-knotch. 5 stars
7/19/02 Kriperace Pretty, but the plot has holes big enough to throw a dog through. 3 stars
7/18/02 Dieter Multiple, flashing phone lines? Please. As boring and average as "American Beauty." 3 stars
7/16/02 Ryan E. Welshans Extrodinary, an Oscar winner no questions about it 5 stars
7/15/02 d. G. Platt I felt the film was dark, slow and lacked a lot. I think Hank could do better. 3 stars
7/15/02 ajay the actors and director made this movie. Plot could've been better 3 stars
7/15/02 John Hefner Keeps you on the edge of your seat 5 stars
7/15/02 Jimmy James wonderfully shot and acted, plot is meh 4 stars
7/14/02 The Bomb69 awesome moviemaking, loses one star because it was predictable 4 stars
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  12-Jul-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Sam Mendes

Written by
  David Self

  Tom Hanks
  Jude Law
  Paul Newman
  Stanley Tucci
  Jennifer Jason Leigh
  Tyler Hoechlin

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