Road to Perdition
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
pray for michael sullivan The Oscar-winning duo of director Mendes and cinematographer Conrad Hall (American Beauty) reteam for this dark, violent, sad and oddly affirming tale about fathers and sons. The central figure is Michael (Hanks), the favoured-son-like employee of 1931 Illinois gangster Rooney (Newman). But both of these men have sons who will set in motion a series of events that strain every lifelong bond. Michael's teen son (Hoechlin) witnesses a brutal and unnecessary assassination committed by Rooney's son (Craig), which forces Rooney to choose between his real and "adopted" sons. So Michael goes on the run with his son, trying to clean up the mess and stay one step ahead of a sneaky, ruthless hitman (Law).

This is blockbuster-as-art, A-list stars in a heavily male story told with a startling amount of sophistication and ingenuity. Every scene looks breathtaking--directed, lit, performed, edited and scored to perfection. And the period is suggested without the usual overt flashiness; shadowy colours and dark weather beautifully evoke the Great Depression. While the story itself is told in subtle shades of understatement that let the audience uncover layers of meaning. And there's a lot going on in here, especially in the complicated father-son relationships, with ideas and truths delicately revealed in the acting and filmmaking. It's no surprise that the cast is astonishingly good, giving each scene extra emotional punch and helping us identify with a bunch of people who are, essentially, vicious thugs. The newcomer Hoechlin is the standout, capturing his role with a sophistication that hints at great things to come. If there's any complaint, it's that the whole film is almost too perfect. A few moments of offhanded humour are like a blast of fresh air into the otherwise sombre proceedings. There's also a general thinness to the plot itself that's only made up for in the richly textured themes and relationships, as well as the virtuoso filmmaking. Fortunately there's more than enough of that.

cert 15 themes, violence 7.Aug.02

dir Sam Mendes
scr David Self
with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig, Tyler Hoechlin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Liam Aiken, Stanley Tucci, Dylan Baker, Ciaran Hinds, David Darlow, Doug Spinuzza
release US 12.Jul.02; UK 20.Sep.02
02/US 1h57

Fathers and sons. Rooney has to choose between his favoured "adopted" son and the real thing (Hanks, Newman, Craig)...

hanks newman law craig
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... "A serious movie - Hanks is playing a 30s ganster type who works for The Man (Newman) who gave him a job and a house when he had nothing. His loyalty is absolute. Unfortunately his son's curiousity of what his father does for a living causes him to sneak into the car and become a witness to a murder committed by the boss's son. He promises his son will keep quiet - but no one can really be trusted, can they? Newman is cool as the big boss, and Law plays a photographer/hitman who is truly evil and downright creepy! This is a good movie - I felt it captured the spirit of the 30s, the whole gangster thing and loyalty to the mob. And Hanks is awesome as always." --Laurie T, Minneapolis 31.Jul.02

pray for michael sullivan "Plodding & predictable. The brother/step-brother theme was only superficially developed, just good son 'Hanks' vs bad, jealous 'natural son.' I'll travel the road to Miller's Crossing instead of this over-hyped plod-fest, anytime." --Rich Rogge, Kansas City 10.Aug.02

2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall