Title: Road to Perdition
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Director(s): Sam Mendes
Writer(s): David Self (screenplay); Max Allan Collins & Richard Piers Rayner (graphic novel)
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tyler Hoechlin, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Stanley Tucci, Jude Law
John Rooney seems to be the grandpa everyone should want.
Summary: Orphaned as a child in the early 1900s, Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) was raised by prominent Irish-American mob boss John Rooney (Paul Newman), and eventually grew up to be one of his most reliable hitmen. As the Depression sets in, Michael isn’t very bothered by his profession, as he receives a steady income to support his family and finds a father-figure in Rooney, who prefers love Michael over his actual son, Connor (Daniel Craig). However, his world is turned upside down when his son, Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), hides in the back of his car one night and witnesses his father and Connor gun down several men at a warehouse. Realizing what his father is a contract killer, Michael Jr. is horrified, but promises to remain silent at his father’s request. His promise, however, does little to satisfy the paranoid and short-tempered Connor, who decides to take the matter into his own hands and chase the father and son through the Capone-run city of Chicago.
Law plays a sociopath, assassin, and force to be reckoned with.
Review: Originally, I had little interest in watching Road to Perdition because I’m not a big fan of gangster movies, but a friend of mine convinced me to see it a few years back and I was surprised to find that it’s much more than your typical, run-of-the-mill mob film. Road to Perdition is one of those films that both reaches outside of its genre and keeps both feet still firmly rooted within it. It features the necessary components of a gangster movie — intimidating mob bosses, bank heists, and shoot outs in the middle of the street — but never glamorizes the violence of the 1920s and focuses instead on how even big-time criminals can have humanity, mainly by showing Sullivan’s obsession with protecting his son’s innocence. Gangsters, the film reminds, were bad people, they were still just that: people.
Tom Hanks proves again his ability to handle diverse and unarguably challenging roles with this performance. He balances the character’s roles as both a desperate father and hit man realistically, while showing how internally conflicted he is in this morally bankrupt world of gray-areas and corruption. Tyler Hoechlin’s performance as a frightened child forced to grow up suddenly is quite good, and it’s a bit of a shame that he hasn’t really done much else. Paul Newman, one of my all time favorite actors, is incredibly captivating and plays the smooth-talking, in-control villain in an exceedingly convincing way. Likewise, Daniel Craig compliments Newman’s composure with his wonderfully erratic and hateful performance. In the end, though, my favorite performance has to be that of Jude Law, who plays a heartless sociopath phenomenally — like a shark that’s smelled blood, Law’s character is one from which no one can hide or receive the slightest of mercy.
The cinematography, particularly in the rain scenes, is dark and beautiful, and the soundtrack, scored by Thomas Newman, also known for his wonderful compositions for Little Children, Revolutionary Road, and Cinderella Man, is incredible.
Overall, this film provides far more than speakeasy thrills and Marlon Brandon impressions. Dramatic and emotionally effective with a powerful twist at the end, this is a film that does well to remind us that even seemingly wicked men deserve a shot at redemption, if not for themselves, then for the innocent whom they guide.