Road To Perdition
5 out of 10
"Sin City" in the 1930's
It is such a long time since there has been a truly classic Mafia flick and it seems like high time for a new one, or at least something of more solid quality than The Sopranos. On that note, I was looking forward to Road to Perdition, however after watching one may have to wait a little longer, as this is not really that movie. However, a stylish and intense picture, with a creative imagery and larger than life characters, it is thoughtful dream like production in the style of Martin Scorseses' "Gangs of New York" or the Hughes brothers mesmerizing "From Hell."
Based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, also known for his work on "Dick Tracey," Road to Perdition is set in 1931 and tells the story of well respected hitman and proud family man Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks). Working for John Rooney (Paul Newman), the head of local Chicago Irish crime family, Sullivan's life changes after his son Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) accidentally witnesses his involvement in a mafia killing. The hunter turns into the hunted as Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig), John Rooney's son and hopeful replacement, figures he knows best how to get a job done right and sends a hitman to kill Michael Jr. to keep him quiet. Forced on the run across the US, the two flee to the small town of Perdition.
Directed by Sam Mendes, with rich tones created by cinematographer Conrad Hall and elaborate 1930's sets, great pains were taken to create a striking and historically accurate backdrop for the picture. Also with a moving soundtrack by it has a meditative trance like quality which are shattered by an ending as hard hitting as Mendes previous production, "American Beauty."
One of the downfalls is the screenplay, which although interesting, does not establish the story well and the plot often seems as muted and fuzzy as the tones the movie is shot in; taking a back seat to more visual aspects and weighted down by the lengthy cross country journey of the two heading to Perdition. Also suffering from a lack of character development and an under-used cast, Paul Newman, usually known for his strong performances, is bland and ineffectual as John Rooney, as is Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sullivan's wife. On a positive note similar to his performance in Cast Away, Hanks often uses silence to speak volumes and can be credited here for some very intense silent moments, accompanied by strong performances by Daniel Craig and Jude Law as the twisted MacGuire, giving the picture some focus. Overall, however, with little attachment to the characters and large sections of the story lacking resolution, Road to Perdition often feels like one of the quietest, longest and most aimless car rides in history and has one wondering where exactly the story is headed. Reading the production notes on the picture's website, one wonders with all the enthusiasm about the rich interrelationships of the characters, what happened during filming that they omitted most of their great plans, resulting in a production riddled with innumerable gaps.
Containing some strong messages about the struggle for identity, power and meaning, it is occasionally breathtaking viewing, however on an entertainment level Road to Perdition is similar to being on hold with only muzak to listen to - soothing at first but soon leaving one feeling either sleepy or vastly bored and hoping for some form of relief.
Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies