Film: Hanks with a moustache? Must be evil!

Nathan Hall

Initially, Road To Perdition seems suspiciously like the sort of over-worked gangster melodrama so prevalent in modern organized crime epics. Fortunately, this Sam Mendes-directed production has a refreshing approach to one of the most over-covered periods of U.S. history by telling the story through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy.

Tom Hanks stars as Michael Sullivan, a conflicted Irish immigrant turned hit man whose sole wish is that his children won’t be forced to follow in his footsteps. Paul Newman co-stars as John Rooney, an Al Capone-linked mob enforcer with a heart that’s only partially made of gold. Jude Law weighs in as “The Reporter,” a sadistic contract killer hired by Rooney to take out Sullivan by any means necessary after Michael’s older son inadvertently witnesses one of Rooney Jr.’s murderous rampages. Sullivan and company road trip it to Perdition, IL after completing the requisite “one last job.”

The film’s gorgeous cinematography obviously benefited from its reported $80 million dollar budget. Shot on location in Chicago, the 1930s haven’t looked this pretty since Captain Kirk and Spock bounced around here in the original Star Trek TV-series many a moons ago. The story is based on a graphic novel by D.C. comic artist Max Collins, who made his name doing comic book tie-ins for films such as 1990’s Dick Tracy, so the homage to B-grade is understandable.

The lone complaint I have to lodge here is Jennifer Jason Leigh’s diminished status as a character in the film. This talented actress comes across as little more than sexy wallpaper as the film’s big boys give their speeches. Tom Hanks thankfully appears to be more interested in complex characters, portraying a darker side not seen since his starring role in 1990’s The Bonfire Of The Vanities. Well, there was his creepy debut in 1980’s He Knows Your Alone, but that’s pretty much out of print at this time. Hanks even allegedly lusted after the role of Lester Burnham in Mendes’ last film, American Beauty. Although by no means approaching the complexities of mob family ties explored in 1972’s The Godfather, Hanks’ turn as The Angel Of Death/doting dad delivers the necessary goods. (Nathan Hall)

 

Road to Perdition. Rated R. Directed by Sam Mendes. Starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law. Wide release. Now playing.