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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 18.8%
Average: 28.57%
Pretty Bad: 5.26%
Total Crap: 1.5%

8 reviews, 85 user ratings

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Road to Perdition
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Stephen Groenewegen

"Not a Bing Crosby/Bob Hope movie"
3 stars

The characters in Road to Perdition don’t smile much. They have weightier matters on their mind, like betrayal and disloyalty and the nature of good and evil.

It’s winter in Illinois, 1931, a time of national Depression and Prohibition. Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a hit man for local crime boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). Rooney accepts the hardworking and reliable Sullivan as part of the family, almost in preference to his own son, Connor (Daniel Craig). When the unstable Connor loses his temper and kills one of Rooney’s associates, Sullivan’s 12-year old son Michael (Tyler Hoechlin) is a witness to the murder. His family now in danger, Sullivan learns that a father will risk everything to protect his son.

Road to Perdition is adapted from a graphic novel - that’s an adult comic book to you and me - by Max Allan Collins. I haven’t read it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if David Self transplanted dialogue directly into his screenplay. The characters’ conversation hangs heavily in the air, stilted and portentous, as if it ought to be ringed with speech bubbles.

The look of Road to Perdition also reflects its graphic novel origins. People and objects are carefully arranged in every frame like wax tableaux. Many of the scenes are virtually static, like panels in a comic strip. The film is relentlessly gloomy; cinematographer Conrad L Hall’s colour palette seems reduced to muddy browns, grey and dark olive. I can only imagine this is a tribute to artist Richard Piers Rayner, who illustrated the graphic novel. But it’s suffocating to watch, like being stuck in a musty, disused wing of an art gallery for two hours.

Director Sam Mendes is following up his enormously successful first feature, American Beauty. He crams so many arty effects into Road to Perdition that he seems to be presenting a film master-class instead of telling a story. Occasionally, these tricks add something to a scene - a climactic gun battle in a rainy street at night loses nothing from being silent. But more often than not, the self-conscious cleverness is irritating, like watching someone else’s child show off at a birthday party.

Paul Newman, though, is still terrific. There’s a trace of Irish in his accent as Rooney, a man who walks tall and seems determined to outlive his wayward son. His cold blue eyes are the focus of attention in all of his scenes. Also memorable is Jude Law’s unnerving assassin. Harlen Maguire’s hobby is photographing murder scenes - he “shoots the dead” and sells the pictures. His stare is unnatural and piercing and he walks with a stoop. You know he’d be making snuff movies if he had access to the technology (locating the bodies wouldn’t be a problem for him).

I remember being impressed with all the performances in American Beauty, right down to the minor characters. But in Perdition, no one besides Newman and Law stands out. Hoechlin seems to have taken tips from his screen father, Tom Hanks. Hanks and Hoechlin share scant physical resemblance, but both characterisations are laboured and earnestly dull.

All the life seems drained from Hanks’ face and body and you’d be hard-pressed to remember his days as a comic. He lumbers through Road to Perdition, pudgy and unshaven, wearing a blank mask. I had the same problem with him that I had in Cast Away. When his face is not expressive, you have no idea what he’s thinking. He spends much of the film on the road with Michael junior, and I assumed he was silently contorted with grief and concern for his offspring. But it’s revealed towards the end that Hanks’ character has been oblivious all along to his son doting on him, so who knows what’s been going through his mind?

Road to Perdition features a plethora of violent deaths and opens with a large mob family gathering, a wake. Perhaps this is Sam Mendes’ The Godfather? In its favour, Perdition boasts a nicely varied score from Thomas Newman and some marvellously rich period art direction (Richard L Johnson and Nancy Haigh) and production design (Dennis Gassner). But the histories and interrelationships of these characters get lost in the ubiquitous shadows. Despite all the plot twists and oppressive atmospherics, Road to Perdition isn’t about much more than the connection between fathers and sons. Although there is a Mrs Sullivan (Jennifer Jason Leigh), she obviously got in the way of all the male bonding and mostly ended up on the cutting-room floor.

There’s no warmth here, and precious little comedy, so Mendes conjures up some cheap laughs with a sissy accountant (Dylan Baker). It’s a stale stereotype from an earlier era. But maybe Mendes was so busy recreating the 1930s, it slipped his mind that time has moved on.

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originally posted: 10/08/02 13:01:12
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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

4/05/20 Jamie Surprisingly hollow movie, boring even. A shame considering the director & cast 2 stars
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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