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Road to Perdition

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

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lntriguing, captivating and a bit hard to believe

  • Feb 27, 2003
  • by
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 personable. In this film, he leads a double life...he kills people. And that is a bit jarring for us, the viewer. However, we don't actually see him doing his job very often, and in one critical early scene, he's actually NOT planning on killing the guy...it's his bosses crazy son that does it, and that's where the trouble starts, because Hanks' son witnesses this killing, and suddenly, Hank's family is a target, and thus, all his efforts to shield his family from the reality of what he does come crashing tragically down around him.

Paul Newman is terrific as the boss. He's a "gentle" soul with the true heart of a killer. Newman is a master of underplaying. His eyes tell us almost all we need to know, and the rest is conveyed in his husky voice. We should all age as openly and gracefully as Paul Newman!

Jude Law plays a hit man hired to track down and kill Hanks. What a crazy character he is...a photographer who enjoys photographing the moment his victims die. We've seen this sort of psychopath before, but to see it in a "period" piece rather than in modern times is a bit jarring. Law limps, has bad teeth and is just generally disgusting. He's a killer WITHOUT a gentle side. Is this more honest than Hanks' split personality? This is one of the questions I think the movie quietly explores.

The movie is not fast-paced, but I don't think it drags. It tells its story with respect for storytelling, rather than a need to have shooting all the time. Yet there is plenty of action and there are many tense moments, particularly between Hanks and Law, who have some memorable confrontations, particularly when they are in a crowded diner together, and Hanks realises who Law is and what he has been sent to do.

About halfway through the movie, Hanks and his son, who are on the lam from retribution, decide they need to make a statement to the boss. Hanks decides they need to rob all the banks where the mob keeps its money, in order to get their attention. He and his son have several "wacky" bank-holdup scenes, with Hanks being very amusing with the bemused bank tellers, and his young son being funny learning how to drive by being the getaway driver. The scenes are fun...you can imagine Speilberg directing them. Yet they are untrue to the tone of the movie. These two people have just recently lost the rest of their family very violently, and their lives have become hell. Yet suddenly, they are in a screwball comedy!! I'm sure director Sam Mendes felt the audience needed a break from all the bleakness, but ultimately, these scenes betray the characters, and that's why the movie only gets 4 stars from me.

BUT any discerning moviegoer should see this movie...it's one of the 10 best of the year, I think.

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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 . January 27, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
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), …
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 …
About the reviewer
I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … 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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