Movie Name: Road to Perdition
Studio: The Zanuck Company
Genre(s): Comic Book/Drama
Release Date(s): July 12, 2002
MPAA Rating: R
Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a scary man. Irish mafia boss John Rooney (Paul Newman) makes the orders and Sullivan enforces them. To his sons Michael, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) and Peter (Liam Aiken), he’s just their father. When Michael, Jr. witnesses a murder, Rooney’s son Connor (Daniel Craig) decides he must silence the Sullivans permanently. When Connor only kills Peter and Michael’s wife Annie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Michael and his son set out on a mission of revenge, and Michael, Jr. will learn why men fear his father…but blood is thicker than water and Rooney must pick family over friendship.
Directed by Sam Mendes, Road to Perdition is an adaption of Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner’s 1998 graphic novel. The film featured the last big screen appearance of Paul Newman (he made TV appearances and provided his voice in Cars). The film won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography (given posthumously to Conrad L. Hall) with nominations for Best Actor (Paul Newman), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, and Best Original Score.
Tom Hanks sometimes rubs me the wrong way. I liked him as a comedian and in comedic roles and felt after Philadelphia (including Forrest Gump) that the fun had left his performances and he took himself too seriously with rather blasé performances. Despite a bit of a negative bias against Hanks, I really enjoy this movie.
Borrowing aspects of Lone Wolf and Cub, the movie is really about a son’s view of his father wrapped in a smart crime film. The film uses the two pairings of fathers and sons. You have a father who hates his son own son (Rooney) and thinks of his employee (Sullivan) as his son, but when push comes to shove, blood is thicker. This dynamic helps shape the movie…plus, you get an insane killer.
The star is really Tyler Hoechlin who is the teller of the story and the idea that the story is his version of Hanks character is interesting (though he appears to be a reliable storyteller). Hanks is Hanks, but since he isn’t the lead (and a “bad guy”), it is a bit of a different performance. Paul Newman is good as the pained father who is ashamed of his slimy son played by Daniel Craig. Jude Law is a good killer, but he’s a bit over the top.
The movie looks great. It is the final film of famed cinematographer of Conrad Hall (whose son accepted his Oscar). The movie’s Midwest setting is a bit unusual and the movie’s big showdown in the rain not only has a great noir style and a bit of a Akira Kurosawa look to it.
Road to Perdition was a bit downplayed when it was released in that it was mostly recognized for performances and looks. I think the story has a lot of nuances to it and ends up being a pretty compelling story. Road to Perdition is worth seeing if you want a strong drama with good performances and a great look.