Road To Perdition

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner19/09/2002

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 117 mins

Beautifully shot, with a terrific performance by Newman, but Hanks is miscast and the film is ultimately too slow and uninvolving - not as great as it thinks it is.

British director Sam Mendes’ follow-up to American Beauty may have seemed like something of an odd choice - an adaptation of a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner.

However, now that Road to Perdition is finished, it’s clear that Mendes was more interested in making a stylish, artfully-shot, Oscar-baiting gangster movie than in the actual story and the result, though undeniably stunning to look at, is ultimately disappointing.

Forrest Gump: Angel of Death

Set in 1931, the film stars Tom Hanks as Illinois mob enforcer Michael Sullivan. (As one reviewer has already pointed out, the effect of this is like Forrest Gump: Angel of Death).

Michael works for mob boss John Mooney (Paul Newman), a man he considers a surrogate father-figure. Mooney, in turn has a son of his own, the vicious, quick-tempered Connor (impressively played by British actor Daniel Craig). Meanwhile, Michael’s own son (newcomer Tyler Hoechlin) discovers what his father does for a living and is suitably horrified. (Can you see a theme developing yet?)

So, when a hit goes wrong and Michael finds himself tragically betrayed by Mooney, he takes his own son on the road in order to –ahem- ‘save his soul’. Their destination? A little town named Perdition (hence the title), which, as you may have guessed, is no coincidence, given that Perdition means ‘hell and damnation’.

Photography-Obsessed Hitman

However, Mooney has other plans for Michael’s soul and sends Jude Law’s photography-obsessed hitman after them…

Make no mistake, the film is visually splendid to look at, courtesy of Mendes’ championed cinematographer, Conrad Hall. Indeed, if your idea of movie heaven is two hours of shadowy rain-soaked streets and impressively-framed fedora hats, then this is the film for you.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the style is more important than the substance.

A large part of this is down to the casting of Tom Hanks. While he’s perfectly good in the role (underplaying throughout and pulling off some impressive scenes), it’s impossible to shake the Gumpish Nice Guy baggage he comes with. His character is meant to be ambiguous – the opening lines say “Some say he was a decent man, others say he was no good at all” – but the audience is never in any doubt.

Sure, Michael kills a lot of people in the film, but the effect is still ‘Ooh, look, it’s Tom Hanks killing people’. Which is, presumably, not the intended effect.

Newman Steals Show

Newman, on the other hand, is fantastic, turning in a chilling performance – it’s worth seeing the film for his scenes alone, particularly his confrontations with Hanks (“None of us will see heaven”) and his Oscar-nomination would appear to be in the bag.

There’s also good support from Stanley Tucci (as real-life mobster Frank Nitti) and Jude Law (as the Weegee inspired killer), though Jennifer Jason Leigh is (literally) wasted as Michael’s ill-fated wife.

In short, there are some stunning moments in the film and some truly beautiful shots, but it ultimately adds up to less than the some of its parts. It’s also over-long, occasionally slow and let down by a schmaltzy, vomit-inducing ending. Worth watching then, but not the masterpiece it wants to be.

Film Trailer

Road To Perdition
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Content updated: 18/11/2019 15:22

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