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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
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by Chris Parry

"Even when he plays a bad guy, Hanks still manages to be Mr Heart of Gold."
5 stars

There's three things you can count on in Hollywood; audiences will always believe a trailer that claims a sequel is 'even funnier than the first' even if the critics say otherwise, the price of popcorn will only become reasonable when you're buying 'dumpster size', and Tom Hanks will find a way, somehow, to be endearing to an audience, even when he's playing a nasty piece of work. Thankfully, with American Beauty's Sam Mendes steering the ship, Road to Perdition is more than just a chance to see America's favorite everyman being 'every-like', it's an opportunity to enjoy watching a blank canvas turned into a glorious piece of art, by cinematographers, actors, writers, and a director that, quite frankly, could turn buttered toast into a life-changing experience.

Hanks plays a hitman for a local mob boss, never entirely comfortable in his work, but feeling he owes the man who looked after him as a child when he had nobody else. Now approaching middle age, with a wife and two boys in tow, he handles his job efficiently, but not without a tinge of sadness... that is until his boy witnesses an execution and becomes a target himself. Doublecrosses, death, revenge and running ensue, portrayed beautifully by all involved.

That's not to say that Road to Perdition is a masterpiece, nor that it doesn't have issues that could have been addressed more fully. As in every film where a big star is being shot at by bad guys, Hanks seems to have a bulletproof aura around him, and without ever actually taking an evasive step, never seems to come close to being hit.

Ditto, director Mendes, who any American Beauty fan must have the ultimate respect for, does tend here to fall into the Gus Van Sant 'lingering close-up' trap an awful lot when a timely cutaway could have helped keep things moving, and for such a deliberately paced journey, the ending does seem to be a case of 'okay, let's end this fucking thing already.'

But for those few negatives, there's also an unholy amount of positives. Hanks re-earns the respect he seemed to be desperately trying to lose with such lightweight pap as You've Got Mail, and inflects emotion, pain, indecision and mental imbalance in almost every frame of the film. He never looks good, instead coming across puffy, unhealthy, sorry and scared, and that's the mark of an actor that knows that his character is more important than his rep. Forget Castaway and Forrest Gump, Hanks is back to Philadelphia form here and takes what could have been a hokey role with any other actor, and gives it depth by the boatload.

Ditto Paul Newman, who must be amongst the greatest living actors on anyone's list. Newman could have portrayed his character (Hanks' mob boss quasi-dad) as all yelling, overpowering and 'balls out' in this role if he thought typical mob boss bravado was the order of the day, but like a true master of the thespian artform, instead he plays it weak, sad, wavering and essentially slowly dying on the screen in front of us because of what he must do to the family he loves.

The big peformances don't stop there. Jude Law is incredible as a hitman with a penchant for taking happy snaps at the death scene - his eyes bulge with deliberate evil, and though he plays an easy character to hate, being as he's going after everyman and child, he's also playing a character so intriguing you almost don't want to see him leave the screen.

And let's give it up for Stanley Tucci, who I'd honestly pay $5 to watch open a box of cereal. Touché Tucci is another true actor, who can take what is essentially a bit character and make him big. Watching him stifle a laugh as Newman's wayward son says, "I'm the future," was worth the price of admission alone.

And that's where Road to Perdition's value really sits - the subtleties. Watching a tiny droplet of sweat roll down Hanks' face when he knows he's talking to the man who is about to try to kill him - the shiver in Paul Newman's voice when he tells Hanks tha all bets are off - the tear of a mobster who knows he has to try to kill Hanks but is certainly going to die in the process - seeing Hanks drive off the road into a cornfield because he's so raging with anger that he *needs* to throw his kid around and yell a little.

Sam Mendes, like P.T. Anderson and Todd Solondz, is a director that knows the value of the performer, and he gives these fine performers the opportunity to show that true acting isn't what Matthew Lillad does with an animated great dane, it's about feeling a character right down in your pancreas and giving our body, mind and soul over to them. Mendes knows, appreciates and will be evermore famous for, what Orson Welles knew, appreciated and was cast asdie by Hollywood for - that the story isn't the point, the characters are.

Road to Perdition is one of those films that you probably will never watch twice, but you must watch once. It's not history, it's not a landmark achievement, it's just a whole slew of folks, behind the camera and in front of it, showing what can be done when you pay a little attention to the details.

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originally posted: 07/16/02 05:36:11
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
DC Characters: For more in the DC Characters series, click here.

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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