to Perdition (6/10)
Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley
thing to learn from Road to Perdition is don’t judge a movie by its
The coming attractions for this film were among the worst I’ve
The actual movie is 10, no 100, times better than the dreadful
Not as dark and depressing as the coming attractions advertise,
it’s an entertaining, rip-snorting chase movie based on revenge, which
is set in motion when Tom Hanks’ (who plays Michael Sullivan) son,
Michael Sullivan, Jr., played by Tyler Hoechlin, witnesses a gangland
It presents an evocative picture of 1931. On one level, the one of
sheer entertainment, it works.
other level is how they’re promoting it with the principals accentuating
that it’s a study of father-son relationships between Hanks and his
putative father, John Rooney (Paul Newman), Hanks and his son, Newman and
his real son, Connor, well played by Paul Craig, and Hanks and Craig (sort
of half-brothers) who are trying to kill each other throughout the movie.
Don’t let this turn you off.
While they are the essence of the film, and there is a good
confrontational scene between Hanks and Newman, and also some good scenes
between Hanks and Hoechlin, the father-son themes are not over-emphasized
by scriptwriter David Self and Director Sam Mendes to the detriment of the
action. The relationships are
there to ponder, but they don't slap you in the face with them with a lot
of touchy, feely talk. This is a good chase movie.
to Perdition continues Hollywood’s glorification of organized crime.
It shows Mafia Dons (Paul Newman, Stanley Tucci) and hit men (Tom
Hanks) as reasonable, agreeable chaps, a lamentable trend started by
Marlon Brando and copied by Max von Sydow in Three Days of the Condor.
movie can be worthwhile even though it contains premises that are not
credible. The question
that’s asked at the beginning, “Was Michael Sullivan (Hanks) a good
man?” is disingenuous. He
was a hit man! He killed people for a living! Obviously in normal life it
would be laughable to even ask this question about a hit man. But this is
Hollywood. And throughout the
movie, we are led to accept the fact that Michael Sullivan is a good man
forced to do bad things as we follow him and his son on the run.
addition to the exceptional work by Hanks, there are two roles that are
accurate criminal characterizations, Connor Rooney, and the hit man
chasing Sullivan, Maguire, played by Jude Law, doing probably the best
work in the film. (If there are Oscars waiting for this film, Law should
be first in line, and Craig should be right behind him.)
They are shown as true psychopaths.
wouldn’t lessen the entertainment value if Director Mendes had portrayed
Frank Nitti (played by Tucci) and the hierarchy of the Chicago mob after
the jailing of Al Capone in 1929 accurately (Paul Ricca was the Boss, not
Nitti). Oh, well, nothing’s perfect, certainly not in Hollywood.
Mendes does keep Jennifer Jason Leigh from destroying the movie with one
of her odd characterizations, like she did to defenseless Dorothy Parker
in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.
its foreboding name and depressing trailer, Road to Perdition is an action
movie with no slow spots, an enjoyable, well-acted, written, and directed