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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Beautiful and boring as hell."
3 stars

'Road to Perdition' seems to have been positioned as the anti-'Spider-Man' -- the based-on-a-comic-book movie that doesn't feel like a comic book.

The original 1998 graphic novel, written by Max Allan Collins and drawn by Richard Piers Rayner, read like a breezy, exciting movie (Loren D. Estleman commented that the book was "the best movie I've seen in years"). But what works in a comic book doesn't always work on the screen; just because a comic book combines words and images doesn't make it tailor-made for Hollywood. Free advice for future producers who flip through a comic and see dollar signs: Comics like Ghost World, which on the face of it did not look like movie material, often make the best movies.

So we arrive at the movie version, a case of derivation twice removed -- Collins' book was an acknowledged tribute to the Japanese comic Lone Wolf and Cub. In other words, we have a movie based on a comic based on another comic. It's no wonder, then, that Road to Perdition is one of the most beautifully crafted films that ever made me come close to falling asleep. The director, Sam Mendes, is the latest gifted filmmaker (his debut was American Beauty) to be a deer caught in the headlights of post-Oscar expectation. Mendes and screenwriter David Self have taken vital, pulpy material and made it pictorial and dull. This story badly needed someone like John Woo, who would've spiced it up and made the most of its themes of family, honor, duality, betrayal. Instead it got Mendes, who approaches the story hat in hand, as if it spoke bottomless truths about the human condition.

We're in Depression-era Illinois, where the amiable old criminal John Rooney (Paul Newman) reigns over his corner of the Capone empire. As in so many stories of this stripe, the old man has a genetic son, Connor (Daniel Craig), a useless hothead, and a like-a-son-to-me, Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), his main assassin. (In the book, Sullivan's name precedes him; people fear him wherever he goes, and he's nicknamed the Angel of Death. The movie hardly addresses that at all, and leaves out his nickname.) Sullivan has two sons of his own, one of whom, his namesake Michael (Tyler Hoechlin), sneaks into his dad's car one night and goes along for the ride to find out what he does for a living. Michael finds out, all right; he witnesses a gangland massacre, setting in motion a chain of events that lead to the death of his mother and little brother. The two Michaels hit the road, stopping every so often so that the grim-faced Sullivan (never a bubbly personality to begin with) can pursue vengeance.

It might be possible to go along with Road to Perdition as an iconic mood piece. Conrad L. Hall's burnished, dark, rain-drenched photography is immaculate, and the film moves with a heavy elegance. But eventually the heaviness sinks the story. There are really no people in Road to Perdition -- only archetypes of good or evil -- and therefore no performances possible. Hanks, for instance, seems so submerged in tough-guy laconic mannerism he looks drugged half the time. Even the usually vibrant Jude Law, cast (and uglified) as a despicable shutterbug/hit-man, is given nothing to play except the surface that Mendes so attentively photographs. Jennifer Jason Leigh is around briefly (and is wasted) as Sullivan's doomed wife, but other than her, no women are allowed to taint the elaborate masculine anguish. The movie is full of musing about fathers and sons: fathers who are bad men but good fathers; sons who are disappointments, and sons who shouldn't want to be like their fathers -- this all may mean a lot to men afflicted with macho sentimentality, but female moviegoers may yawn through a lot of Road to Perdition.

Eventually the movie folds up into complete pictorialism. Two key murders -- the ones we want to see, the ones this entire creaking revenge melodrama is pointing toward -- are secondary to Mendes' fancy staging; one of them is the first such retribution I can recall that registers visually as an afterthought, as a mirror swings toward the camera and shows us the aftermath. This is self-conscious filmmaking and has nothing to do with the basic needs of the story.

Mendes doesn't even include Collins' juicy exchange between Sullivan and the murderer of his wife: Connor snarls "I'll see you in hell," and Sullivan says, "Hell will be heaven if I can spend eternity making you pay for what you did to her." There's pulpy poetry in that; for all its glory of image, this "Road to Perdition" lacks not only poetry but the unpretentious conviction of pulp.

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originally posted: 12/30/06 03:19:00
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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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