Road to Perdition (2002)

Road to Perdition (2002)
  • Time: 117 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Sam Mendes
  • Cast: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law


Mike Sullivan works as a hit man for crime boss John Rooney. Sullivan views Rooney as a father figure, however after his son is witness to a killing, Mike Sullivan finds himself on the run in attempt to save the life of his son and at the same time looking for revenge on those who wronged him.

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  • Not to be dismissed too lightly. Conrad Hall’s photography won an Academy Award, for one thing, and as little as one might think of these honors, it was deserved, and not just for Hall’s work on this film.

    It’s 1931 in the upper Midwest and Mob Master Rooney (Newman) is holding a wake for one of his dead henchmen. It’s a lively affair with jigs and reels and plenty of hootch and whatnot — these being Irish gangsters and not Italians — and Newman delivers an encomium to the deceased before turning the floor over the the cadaver’s brother. The brother appears to have imbibed a dram too much because, after mentioning the many virtues of the departed, he turns on Newman and begins what sounds like the beginning of an insult — “You say one thing and then you turn around and….” He’s hustled out the door before he gets himself in a jam.

    Newman and two of his henchman watch the drunken brother being driven home. One of the henchmen, Tom Hanks, explains that the guy simply had too much to drink. “Sure,” says Newman with genuine understanding, and then tells the two goons to go to the drunken brother’s home and make sure everything is okay — “Just talk to him.” They talk to him, as instructed, but when the guy gets truculent, the second goon, Daniel Craig in a good performance, pulls out a gun and shoots him through the head.

    This leaves Newman outraged but Craig is Newman’s son and there’s nothing he can do, not even when Craig eliminates Hanks’ wife and son at their home. Now Hanks and his remaining little boy are intent on killing Craig, but Newman can’t allow that so he calls in an assassin from out of town and sets him in pursuit of Hanks and son. The imported gunslinger is an evil-looking Jude Law.

    It’s already a little complicated and I don’t want to go on with the plot in any detail. The eponymous “Perdition” has a double meaning; it’s the name of a rural town somewhere north of Chicago and, of course, it also suggests the hell that Hanks — a murderer himself — is headed towards. There’s a second theme, the connection between Hanks and his surviving son, that’s handled quietly and without sentiment, only one and a half hugs, and neither ever smiles at the other.

    As you can tell, this is not a gay romp through the Springtime park. Most scenes are shot at night. There’s not an abundance of blood but there’s enough. There are few pleasantries among the several characters — including one from Frank Nitti, played by Stanley Tucci — but they are as sincere as the happy grins of synchronized swimmers. Some of the scenes are almost hair-raisingly suspenseful. One takes place in a diner, and you aren’t likely to miss it.

    In the end, these Depression gangster movies have their limits. When did they begin to become so popular? “The Godfather”? That was forty years ago. How much steam can be left in that chugging donkey engine?

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