Road to Perdition (2002)(DVD)

Starring Jude Law et al

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R 53

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FPB certification number
Number of Discs
TV System
South Africa
  1. 2
Running Time
FPB Consumer Advice
FPB Rating
  1. Sam Mendes
Road To Perdition
  1. Jude Law
  2. Paul Newman
  3. Tom Hanks
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Movie Review

British director Sam Mendes follow up to the Oscar winning American Beauty, Road to Perdition is something of a mixed bag. Firstly the movie is absolutely brilliantly made. From the superb photography to the excellent use of sound throughout the movie it cannot be faulted at all.

The movie is based on a graphic novel created by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner.
Set in the early 1930’s the story follows the story of a gangster hitman, Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) who works for a mafia kingpin John Rooney, played by Paul Newman. The two of them are very close and Michael is very loyal to his boss. But the John Rooney has a wayward and psychotic son (Connor Rooney) who jealous of the close relationship Michael has with his father. So one night, Conner murders most of Michael’s family. Only his only eldest son Michael Sullivan, Jr. survives.

Michael’s only choice is to leave town for Chicago with his son and try and find work for a new mafia boss. When this doesn’t work he sets out on the road to Perdition, a small town where his wife’s sister has a small cottage next to a lake. Along the road Michael and his son get to chance to bond as they try and stay alive despite the efforts of a deadly hitman played by Jude Law, sent out to kill Michael.

Road to Perdition is at times rather slow moving movie. Tom Hanks this time round as a deadly killer hell bent on wreaking revenge on the murderer of his family, plays a rather silent type role. He is a man of few words and more of action. Most shots of him are in shadows with his hat drawn down to hide his face. Jude Law is really slimy as the killer who likes to take photos of the dead.

Technically I found the movie fascinating to watch, despite the sedate pacing of the movie. The various set pieces are excellent executed, and some very clever camera techniques are employed. One example which springs to mind is what at first appears to be a rather ordinary shots of Michael and his son in their car driving into Chicago. The camera points to them for some time from the front of the car as they are driving and then slowly moves to the left of the car as the car comes to a stop, showing them getting out. It sounds pretty ordinary but I imagine it took some time to pull if this seamless shot. There are plenty more examples of this in the movie.

Road to Perdition may not be to everyone’s liking, but those who favour good gangsters movies in the tradition of Godfather and Millers Crossing should find this to their taste. Be warned there are some moments of unexpected and shocking violence. Taken as a whole the quality of the movies production values it should make for a superb DVD I reckon.

A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

"What's papa's job?" Peter Sullivan (Liam Aiken) asks his slightly older brother, Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), a serious, 12-year-old bookworm whose favorite novel is "The Lone Ranger." It's a bit of a mystery in the Sullivan household just what their father, Mike (Michael Sr.), does for his boss, a wealthy man named John Rooney, played beautifully by Paul Newman. If their mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh) knows, she's not telling.

In another Oscar-caliber performance, Tom Hanks plays the father in ROAD TO PERDITION. A highly nuanced, compelling piece of work, Hank's acting will remind you of his reserved, resolute and resigned performance as the Captain in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. As you may have heard, this time Hanks plays a bad guy, but, relatively speaking, he's a sort of a saint among sinners, no matter how many men he kills. The story convinces us that circumstances are at least partially to blame for his poor career choice.

In order to discover what papa does in his evenings on the job, Michael invents his own version of take-your-kids-to-work day. He hides in his Dad's big, black car under his father's "tool kit," a suitcase big enough to carry a violin, or -- you guessed it -- a Tommy gun. That night proves to hold the seminal event in Michael's young life. From there the story becomes one of chase and revenge. As Michael tells us in the opening narration, he spent "six weeks on the road with him [his father] in the winter of 1931." The story is mainly about those six weeks.

This closely observed film is the second picture by AMERICAN BEAUTY's Sam Mendes. Other than their exceptional quality, the two movies couldn't be more different. Whereas every minute of AMERICAN BEAUTY was jam packed with sarcastic wit, ROAD TO PERDITION is put together lovingly as if every moment is to be savored slowly like a fine wine. Mendes is like a great conductor who can mesmerize his audiences no matter which piece he chooses from his repertoire.

The script by David Self (THIRTEEN DAYS) excels in the dialog ("Natural Law: Sons are put on this earth to trouble their fathers.") as well as in the character development.

The casting is outstanding. In addition to those already mentioned, Jude Law plays a dangerous press photographer who brags, "I shoot the dead." Daniel Craig plays John Rooney's dangerously hot-headed son. And Stanley Tucci delivers a refined version of Frank Nitti.

The production is stunning. Albert Wolsky's costumes make maximum use of big hats and heavy woolen coats. Thomas Newman's melancholy music sets the mood perfectly. And, most of all, Conrad L. Hall's cinematography turns out to be the crowning achievement of the entire movie. With rich mahogany colors and warm use of shadows, the look is astounding. Best of all is a nighttime gun battle in the rain that becomes an instant classic. Don't waste your time voting, Academy members. Just award Hall the Oscar now. He can put the statuette by his other two for BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and for AMERICAN BEAUTY.

"There is only one guarantee -- none of us will see heaven," John tells Mike, speaking probably about their entire profession. And there is only one guarantee about the movie itself -- while watching it, you'll feel like you've arrived in cinematic heaven.

ROAD TO PERDITION runs 1:59. It is rated R for "violence and language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Region details

DVD Region 2

Region 2 - Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Greenland, French Overseas departments and territories.

R 53

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