Road to Perdition
In Road to Perdition, Tom Hanks plays a hit man who finds his heart. Michael Sullivan (Hanks) is the right-hand man of crime boss John Rooney (Paul Newman), but when Sullivan’s son accidentally witnesses one of his hits, he must choose between his crime family and his real one. The movie has a slow pace, largely because director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) seems to be in love with the gorgeous period locations. Hanks gives a deceptively battened-down performance at first, only opening up toward the very end of the film, making his character’s…
In Road to Perdition, Tom Hanks plays a hit man who finds his heart. Michael Sullivan (Hanks) is the right-hand man of crime boss John Rooney (Paul Newman), but when Sullivan’s son accidentally witnesses one of his hits, he must choose between his crime family and his real one. The movie has a slow pace, largely because director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) seems to be in love with the gorgeous period locations. Hanks gives a deceptively battened-down performance at first, only opening up toward the very end of the film, making his character’s personal transformation all the more convincing. Newman turns in a masterful piece of work, revealing Rooney’s advancing age but at the same time, his terrifying power. Jude Law is also a standout, playing a hit man-photographer with chilling creepiness. This movie requires a little patience, but the beautiful cinematography and moving ending make it well worth the wait. —Ali Davis
Barnes and Noble
Unquestionably one of 2002’s best films, this Depression-era crime drama demonstrates yet again that erstwhile sitcom star Tom Hanks is one of Hollywood’s finest actors. It also vindicates the judgment of critics who maintain that Sam Mendes (American Beauty) is among the most talented directors working today. Based on a graphic novel written by detective-story scribe Max Allen Collins, Perdition begins in a small midwestern city where Michael Sullivan (Hanks) works as an enforcer for his adopted father, Irish gangster John Rooney (Paul Newman). When Sullivan’s son, Mike Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), witnesses one of his father’s killings on Rooney’s behalf, the gangster decides that his ward and his family are liabilities that must be removed. Mendes, working from a script that considerably expands on the Collins story, tells several stories simultaneously; the plot principally revolves around Sullivan’s efforts to safeguard his son and get even with the man who betrayed him, but it also focuses on the boy’s efforts to bond with his emotionally distant father, and in a tertiary sense it’s about the internal conflicts of a lawbreaking man governed by his own peculiar code of honor while functioning in a hopelessly corrupt and amoral societal structure. Mendes eschews flashy visual effects and quick cutting in favor of elegantly composed shots and subtle camera moves. This directorial restraint is carried over to the performances, which are mostly understated (Hanks, for example, suggests far more than he shows, forcing viewers to use their imaginations). The one exception is Jude Law, whose turn as a hired assassin is delightfully eccentric and over-the-top. Road to Perdition could have been a florid, melodramatic shoot-’em-up, but Mendes’s inspired direction and the solidly grounded performances of Hanks and Newman made it something very special. This is a film viewers will want to see many times. Ed Hulse
Director Sam Mendes’s much-anticipated follow-up to his Academy Award®-winning American Beauty found him exploring the period gangster film—but with a moral fiber and undercurrent of family tragedy familiar from his Oscar® triumph. As he did with Beauty, Mendes again wisely entrusts the film’s music to Tom Newman, a composer with an instinctive knack for getting inside a film’s characters via innovative and often orthodox methods. As many of Newman’s preceding scores have been rhythmically driven and rife with…
Rock Island, Illinois—1929. Michael O’Sullivan is a good father and a family man—and also the chief enforcer for John Looney, the town’s Irish Godfather of crime. As Looney’s “Angel of Death,” O’Sullivan has done the bidding of Chicago gangsters Al Capone and Frank Nitti as well—but when a gangland execution spells tragedy for the O’Sullivan family, a grieving father and his adolescent son find themselves on a winding road fo treachery, revenge, and revelation.
Writer Max Allan Collins is a two-time winner of the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Award for his Nathan Keller historical thrillers True Detective and Stolen Away. Award-winning artist Richard Piers Raynner spent four years working on the artwork for Road to Perdition, a labor of love that has resulted in some of the most stunningly realistic drawings of 1930s Chicago ever seen on printed page.