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Road to Perdition

The 2002 crime drama directed by Sam Mendes and starring Tom Hanks.

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And miles to go before they sleep....

  • Jan 27, 2004
Before seeing this film for the first time, I already knew that Tom Hanks plays a hit man for the mob. Tom Hanks? As I then viewed the film, I assumed that Hanks accepted the role because he liked the script, respected director Sam Mendes, and wanted to work with Paul Newman. I also guessed (only a guess) that he wanted a role "out of character." That is, he wanted to depart from the Hanks persona so firmly established in earlier films, notably Splash (1984), Big (1988), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and Forrest Gump (1994).

The quality of Hanks's acting in Road to Perdition is outstanding. The same is true of others in the cast, notably Paul Newman (John Rooney), Jude Law (Maguire), Daniel Craig (Connor Rooney), and Tyler Hoechlin (Michael Sullivan, Jr.). What I did not fully realize until seeing the film again is that the older Sullivan son (not his father, played by Hanks) is the the focal point of the film, especially after brutal events which are best revealed in the film itself. Hoechlin is among the most talented of younger actors, female or male. In this film, he skillfully portrays a doting and devoted son who inadvertently becomes centrally involved in his father's career in crime. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Rooney sees Michael Sr. as his "true" son. For obvious reasons, this infuriates Rooney's natural son Connor, a vicious but incompetent heir to his father's mob "franchise."

This film is set in the 1930s. As crime became "organized," certain policies and procedures were agreed upon and strictly enforced. The mobsters' model was the corporate structure, probably General Motors with its hierarchies, divisions, special units, strategic alliances, etc. Activities were organized within specific territories. In this film, Rooney (Newman) rules the Tri Cities area which consists of Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, and nearby Davenport, Iowa. He reports to a "corporate headquarters" located in Chicago, headed by Al Capone.

With regard to the title, it refers to a journey undertaken by the two Sullivans and others before reaching what proves to be -- for most of them -- a violent destination. Who among them will be eternally damned? The title also refers to a town to which Michael Sr. plans to take his son once he (Sr.) eliminates the threats to them both. Special credit to David Self for an extraordinarily clean and crisp script, and to Conrad L. Hall's cinematography which earned for him an Academy Award. As for Hanks being "out of character" in this part, his acting skills ensure that he is every bit as credible as Michael Sr. as he is as Forrest Gump. In years to come, it will be interesting to observe the course and direction of his career. Perhaps he has only begun to reveal the nature and extent of what his talents can achieve.

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More Road to Perdition (2002 film) reviews
review by . August 20, 2010
Road to Perdition is a movie that brings you in with the strong performances of its acting cast and keeps your interest with cinematography that is some of the finest ever seen in Hollywood. It is a tale of fathers, their sons, and the gangster era of Al Capone. It pits hit man Michael Sulivan (Hanks) against a bounty hunter (Jude Law) who has been hired by his boss, and father figure John Rooney (Paul Newman) as Sulivan attempts to kill Rooney's trigger happy son (Daniel Craig). At the same time …
review by . October 11, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
For some reason I was really looking forward to "Road to Perdition." Perhaps it was because I liked Sam Mendes' first film, "American Beauty," so much. Or maybe it was the fact that Thomas Newman, one of my new favorite composers, wrote the score for the film. It could have been that Tom Hanks doesn't usually play this sort of role, or that it's a film based on a pretty good graphic novel, a fact which seemed played down in many circles.     One thing I can say is don't go seeing …
review by . April 04, 2003
Whether or not Tom Hanks and Paul Newman fall into the great actors category for their roles in this film seems irrelevant when measuring the film's overall ability to entertain. Sadly, this 30s period piece involving murderous Irish gangsters flops miserably. The plot although reasonable is predictable from the moment the young son appears and begins his monologue against the backdrop of the roiling surf. Actually watching the trailer and drawing your own conclusions sufficiently will convey the …
review by . February 27, 2003
This movie has many, many great things to recommend it. The cinematography and art direction are first rate. The casting is very good, I think. Tom Hanks as an "enforcer" for the mob is not terribly hard to buy. He does his job because its what he owes to his boss, who was like a father to him, and its what keeps his family living a nice life. He works hard to keep his family insulated from what he does for a living, and Hanks is right for the part. We know him as a nice guy. He's trustworthy and …
About the reviewer
Robert Morris ()
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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InRoad 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
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