Dry State
Road to Perdition
Review by Ross Anthony

A poorly cast Tom Hanks somberly steps through gorgeous cinematography with an unentertainingly slow pace in search of revenge and/or redemption.

Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan Sr. plays right-hand hit man to bootleggin' midwestern Irish mob boss John Rooney (Newman), 1931. Only, I never buy Hanks as a thug. Having not read the graphic novel upon which this is based, it seems to me, in order for the drama to work, Sullivan's got to be big, doltish and not just emotionally disconnected, but values-less. Hanks almost looks big, but I'll need a lot more pre-story to see him as dumb, and though many strides are taken to keep him hard-hearted - there simply aren't enough to combat the scores of films he's made on heart. We need an Irish-American Beat Kitano (see "Kikujiro"). Do you have a suggestion? I have one: Ciaran Hinds -- the fellow who plays Fynn in this film. We need someone we don't know well, someone whose first image leaves us with a feeling of uncertainty and a hint of fear. Road to PerditionThis entire beautiful nuance is lost on the all too lovable Hanks. Don't get me wrong, Hanks is awesome - just not in this film.

In fact, Newman and Law, two more awesome actors (Law blew me away in "Talented Mr. Ripley"), likewise can't seem to find a way to shine here. Doug Spinuzza as Tony Calvino, coke-snorting, slow-pistol-handed pimp, in only 30 seconds of screen time claims the films most interestingly acted moment (Daniel Craig's fine job aside). And Tyler, as M. Sullivan Jr. deserves mention for his solid work as the boy who found out too much about his father.

A major inconsistency in point of view also hinders. Initially, this is a story as seen by a twelve year old boy, but eventually, harsher, more omniscient angles gleaning "Godfather" sensibility in image and story contrast awkwardly.

Further, many of the choices made by various characters may leave audience members saying to themselves "he would have never done that." Their quantity, coupled with the Hanks miss-cast, may prevent one from "buying in."

Wanting to be a film about a hit man/father learning to have emotions, the picture is at its best when just Sullivan and son are having an awkward moment of long overdue bonding. Such moments being few and far between, this crucial dynamic needs much greater emphasis. Starting the story with the bank robbery sequences, then telling back story via nightmare/flashbacks may have helped.

Besides the slow pace and dry emotional well, the actual dialogue also lacks uniqueness. Great costuming, location scouting and cinematography (save for three cliché shots), but a rather empty film.

Happily, "Road to Perdition" climaxes well, but then immediately deadens that punch with a redundant voiced over epilogue.

There are also plenty of murders -- grizzly enough to upset those not into that sort of thing and not gruesome enough for those that are.

(Btw, "perdition" is a euphemism for hell and that coastal shot is actually Lake Michigan.)

  • Road to Perdition. Copyright © 2002. Rated R.
  • Starring Tyler Hoechlin, Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Jude Law.
  • Directed by Sam Mendes.
  • Screenplay by David Self.
  • Based upon the graphic novel by Max Allen Collins.
  • Produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Dean Zanuck, Sam Mendes at Dreamworks, 20th Century Fox.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:55:38 PDT