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Road to Perdition (2002)

  Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tyler Hoechlin, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Newman, Stanley Tucci
Links: Road to Perdition on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Book
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 7.33 (3 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 95th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"Gangsta Drivin'" - a review by mino

Road To Perdition is a movie that, on the face of it, shows great promise. This promise comes on the strength of one thing: its director. Perdition is directed by Sam Mendes, of American Beauty (1999) fame: a director with only one truly significant movie credit to his name, sure, but it's certainly a doozy to have on the resumé.

That Mendes' direction was enough to even get me into the cinema at all was a significant achievement in itself, given that Perdition stars Tom Hanks: let's just say that he's not exactly my favourite actor, heretical though it may be to express this belief to most moviegoers. Any movie that features a child as one of the major characters also sets off warning bells in my head, given the sort of whiny little monsters that Hollywood execs seem so keen to cast. Paul Newman holds a degree of interest for me, but not usually enough to get me in to see, oh, I don't know, a Tom Hanks movie. And I maintain that Jude Law is one of the most overrated of the current crop of cult-movie superstars — playing, as he does, just the one character. If it's Law, then you know it's going to be that brooding, slightly creepy, perpetually disappointed-looking moody bastard character he always does; he does it well, but he rarely demonstrates a great range.

Mendes was enough to draw me in, though, and I'm kind of glad that this was the case. While I'm no bigger a fan of Hanks than I was before I went in, I did enjoy Perdition a great deal. Hanks plays Michael Sullivan, an early-1930s Chicago mobster, working for Newman's powerbroking Irish crime lord. Sullivan isn't exactly a gang bigwig himself, but he is well-respected: not least for being a loving husband and father to two young boys.

When one of these boys (Tyler Hoechlin) brings his father's empire — and family — crashing down around his ears, the twosome have to set off together cross-country, avoiding Newman's minions, including Jude Law's brooding, slightly creepy, perpetually disappointed-looking moody bastard assassin. It's hard to say more without giving some serious plot details away: but really, that's all you need to know. Dad and son, on the run from killers. That'll do.

The movie is beautifully made, and certainly a very polished piece of work; it's also rather more thought-provoking than much of Hanks' other work. The performance from Hoechlin is great: it's a rare treat to see a leading child character played in such a simple and understated, but totally absorbing, fashion. Newman is certainly capable of wresting control of the screen from anyone with whom he shares it; Law is disappointing, but only because his reputation so considerably outweighs his talent.

Perdition, then, has a lot going for it. It's well-paced, it has a fine script, a moderately interesting plot, is thought-provoking, and has some good acting performances (despite my initial misgivings). So what's wrong with it? Well, it's hard to say. If ever there's an example of a movie lacking 'heart', well, here it is. I'm not sure there's a better explanation: it just looks like Mendes has tried too hard to make a 'classy' film, without worrying about giving it any real emotion.

The kind of oddly-detached approach Mendes uses worked well for American Beauty, where we almost felt like voyeurs for intruding on the family's slow disintegration; the movie was 'cold' in much the same way as Perdition, but there it worked. In Beauty, we never quite knew which characters we should like and which we shouldn't. For what is effectively a father-and-son road movie, well, I think that Perdition just needed to make us care a little bit more.

mino gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 13 Dec 2002

"We're on a road to nowhere" - a review by oblie

A lot of people die in this movie and die brutally, it is a very violent film indeed and Tom Hanks kills most of them, in fact he kills just about everyone in this slumbering giant of a film which woke but a few times to allow a glimpse at its dreamy potential.

Hanks plays an unusually clever heavy named Michael Sullivan who, like every other Irish-American in town, owes a debt to organised-crime boss John Rooney (Paul Newman) although Sullivan's is of a more personal nature than those owed by others. Things go awry for Sullivan when his inquisitive son (Tyler Hoechlin) stows away in his car one evening in an effort to see what it is that his father disappears day and night to do for Mr. Rooney and witnesses his 'pop' inadvertently assisting in the murder of another gangster. Sullivan and family soon become targets and father and son must take to the road to avoid the fate he has prescribed for so many in his past.

Rooney's cohort Frank (Stanley Tucci) sets his 'gifted' assassin (played with lackadaisical relish by Jude Law) on the trail of the condemned man and there is a rather clever scene - which could have been much cleverer had the lead role been occupied by an actor who is not so familiar, nor quite so predictable - where the pursuer and pursued converse idly in evaluation of one another at a roadside diner. The 'perdition' of the title is (glibly enough) not merely a description of Sullivan's status as a man without hope but also the name of the place to where he and his son head to take refuge, the majority of the film however takes place on this aforementioned 'road' and most of the efforts of the narrative centre on the relationship between father and son and conversely Sullivan's relationship with old man Rooney. On this point Sam Mendes becomes a tad laboured too, we are brought back to it too many times.

Beautifully crafted in every respect, the film oozes a little too much Hollywood polish (although its grand and stately composure does have a certain amount of appeal), a much leaner and more spontaneous work along the same heading as Mendes' work here could have worked exquisitely, instead it all finishes up barely above the surface, gasping for a breath of fresh air.

oblie gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Sat 19 Oct 2002

Movie review statistics

Ratings given without reviews:

Number of reviews: 2
Number of ratings: 3
Average rating: 7.33
Lowest rating: 6 (by oblie)
Highest rating: 9 (by em_fiction)
 
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Reader comments

  1. v. cool film

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Mr Black on Tue 06 Jan 2004 13:11 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 10.00 (1 rating)

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