The Road to Perdition (2002)

I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Sam Mendes directed, and I guess I was expecting another hyperkinetic movie like his “American Beauty,” which I liked.

“Road to Perdition” was slow, quiet, intelligent, and thoughtful.

Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a mob worker for his adoptive godfather, John Rooney (Paul Newman). John’s biological son is a maniacal douchebag named Conor Rooney (Daniel Craig), who cheats and kills and is just a complete dick.

Michael does his best to be a normal family man. He has a wife, Annie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and two sons. Things happen, and Michael is forced to hit the road with his 13-ish elder son, Michael Jr (Taylor Hoechlin).

Along the way, Michael Sr takes mob money from various banks, and visits Chicago Crime Underlord, Frank Nitti (Stanley Tucci). Nitti sics a crime scene photographer/hitman named Maguire (Jude Law) on the two Michaels.

During a narrow escape, Michael Sr is hit in the arm. Mike Jr is his getaway driver, and eventually stops at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. The farmer and his wife (Ma & Pa Kettle) remove Senior’s bullet, and provide a safe haven for them to rest as he heals.

Ultimately, Michael Sr & Jr have to hit the road anew to Resolve Things. Once Things Resolve, we’re left where the film began: with Michael, Jr, staring out at Lake Michigan (as itself), describing his father in voice-over.

“Road to Perdition” reminded me a lot of “Capote” for its unhurried pace, beautiful cinematography, and subdued score. I actually looked to see if the same composer did both films. (Nope)

The acting was uniformly good. I was especially impressed by Taylor Hoechlin as Michael, Jr, and by Tom Hanks. I like Tom Hanks, and I think he’s a good actor. I just get Hanksed out sometimes by his characters who are always overly happy regardless of their circumstances. As Michael Sullivan, Hanks rarely smiles, and never laughs. It’s an antiHanksian character, and he nails it.

This was Paul Newman’s last theatrical release. He made it a good one.

Grade: A

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3 Responses to “The Road to Perdition (2002)”

  1. This is the sort of film that when I first saw it I thought, “that was pretty good”, but over time sticks with you and becomes richer upon reflection. Great review.

    • Thanks. I want to buy a better tv to do it justice. Plus I just got a new “American Werewolf in London.” Jenny Agutter in a shower. Nuff said.

    • Stev, your comment that “Road to Perdition” “becomes richer upon reflection” stuck with me, because it truly has. It’s like B&B Cognac to me: there’s the initial warmth and smoothness, then a subtle aftertaste that ends up like honey. At least to me.

      I was thinking about other films that did this, and I still think about “Mystery Train.” Check that out some pensive night.

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