Road to Perdition

Review Date:
Director: Sam Mendes
Writer: David Self
Producers: Sam Mendes, Richard and Dean Zanuck
Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan
Paul Newman as John Rooney
Tyler Hoechlin as Michael Sullivan Jr.
An Irish mobster, with a deep love for his family, is troubled after his son sees him whacking out some bad guys. The father explains the situation to the boy and asks him to keep it quiet, but the enforcer’s boss isn’t necessarily convinced of this fact, and decides to take matters into his own hands. Mobster and son hit the road soon thereafter, and gangster stuff…ensues.
Emotional detachment. As I watched this beautiful picture unfold before my very eyes, as I smelled the smoke from its cigarettes and felt the rain from its sky hit my face, I realized that there was one thing that this film wasn’t doing to me and that was involving me on any emotional level. A gorgeous looking movie on all fronts with superb sets, authentically recreated ambiance from the days of old, costumes as you would expect from Oscar winning filmmakers and cinematography that will surely be on the nominations lists of all the year-end award tallies (one particularly memorable scene features a dark, rainy shoot-out in the street with only flashes of a Tommy gun being shown on one end, bodies toppling over on the other and music strumming over it all. Classic) The lighting, the shadows, the moisture, the angles, the smoke, the smaller details that bring scenes to life…everything was here for the picking and it was all picked quite well and obviously in season (ugh, that’s me trying to get poetic…I think). And speaking of poetry, this film also brings with it a very “artsy” feel. It’s not a “summer movie” by any stretch of the imagination (this is a fall release, if I ever saw one), it moves slowly, it has very little action and now that I think about it…very little dialogue as well. Much of what happens is communicated via looks, gestures, moods set and choice words here and there. No unforgettable dialogue, but a decent story presented via a handful of well-defined characters. Symbolic elements and religious undertones aside, the film is basically the tale of a man’s struggle to preserve the purity of his family, while wrestling against his personal “duties” at the same time.

The actors are all quite good, especially Newman who despite the small role, does a lot with it as the sturdy ol’ gangster stuck in his old ways. His son in the film, Daniel Craig, also brings a lot of intensity to his part and a portly looking Hanks delivers the goods while remaining straight-faced throughout (it’s all about the inner-struggle), but certainly shouldn’t wait for Oscar to come calling this year (is he acting with his mustache? You decide!) I also have no idea what would possess Jennifer Jason Leigh, a superb actress in her own right, to take such a vapid, two-line role. Very odd. Jude Law, on the other hand, is gorgeous, as usual. Unfortunately (and you had to see this coming), there wasn’t much in the story which actually pulled me into the characters, there weren’t any surprises and there certainly wasn’t any revelatory resolution that made the two hours which came before it seem as worthwhile as I had hoped. In fact, there were a number of scenes which just seemed “too easy” for the characters, in which one of them would find another one at the drop of a dime, or another would be able to walk into a church and sit right behind a man who had the entire city looking for him, without anybody noticing?? And when all was said and done, I basically turned to my movie-mate and said, “Is that it? I was expecting something a little more powerful.” The look of the film is there, definitely one of the better looking movies of the year, the story is technically sound and the characters well-established, with solid performances, but the emotional attachment and suspense is lacking, most of the twists in the script are telegraphed, I was hoping to pull back a gulp or two but it was not to be and some of the resolutions are just too convenient to resonate very deeply. All things considered, I’ll take MILLER’S CROSSING or L.A. CONFIDENTIAL over this flick any day.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

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