|July 12, 2002
Section: Rochester Living
type, Hanks excels as a bad guy trying to do right
by his son
BY STAFF FILM CRITIC
Crime boss John Rooney ruefully tells his
chief henchman, Michael Sullivan, ``None of us can
make it to heaven.''
``My son can,'' Sullivan replies.
To try to save his 12-year-old boy after
the kid inadvertently witnesses a mob
assassination, Sullivan must hit the road. If
Sullivan has his way, his boy will live to choose
another kind of life.
Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a bad man trying to
be a good father - and diverting his son from a
similar life of crime might be his one good deed
in a lifetime of murder and mayhem.
Director Sam Mendes - who follows his
Oscar-winning debut, American Beauty - has created
another sublime gem, one that plumbs rich
emotional depth in a moody tale of Irish-American
You'll be tempted to label Road to
Perdition a gangster film, but the writers use the
1930s crime world as a suspenseful backdrop for a
study of the complex relationships between fathers
Crime boss Rooney (Paul Newman) has a weak
and ineffectual grown son named Connor (Daniel
Craig), who messes up nearly every assignment he
Connor is also jealous of the way his
father favors his chief aide, Sullivan. The
henchman is an adopted son and has been part of
the Rooney household since he was an orphan
dropped on the doorstep.
Though the film is being released at the
height of the normally brain-dead summer season,
Road to Perdition should lead to a bevy of Oscar
nominations. It gets top marks in every
conceivable category - acting, cinematography, art
direction, costumes and music.
Hanks brings a weighty resignation to the
first substantial dark role of his career you
believe he's capable of murder.
But you also believe he will do anything to
save his son and point him in the right direction.
Newman also is fabulous in a smaller but
important role as the powerful, complex Rooney.
The crime patriarch oozes the charm of a colorful
and generous grandfather but can turn on a dime
and order your death.
The supporting performances also are
stunners - especially newcomer Tyler Hoechlin as
Sullivan's boy, Jude Law as a squirrely degenerate
hired to hunt down Sullivan and Stanley Tucci as
the suave but deadly Chicago gangster Frank Nitti.
The literate script by David Self is based
on Max Allan Collins' graphic novel and offers
more emotional resonance than you might expect
from an adaptation of a so-called adult comic
Mendes gives the film a darkly poetic
style. He and the great veteran cinematographer
Conrad L. Hall have created memorable images of
heightened reality amid the shadows and rain of
winter in Illinois in the 1930s.
The film's realistic costumes include
dozens of 1930s-style fedoras, created by Dave
Brown, a local hat maker with a shop at 3054
West Henrietta Road. It's the latest of a long
line of prestigious film assignments for Brown.
Thomas Newman's moody score combines the
spooky intensity and rhythmic pulse of Bernard
Herrmann with the lovely lyricism of Elmer
The summer of 2002 may be remembered for
the inordinate amount of intelligence and artistry
that hit the screen in what is normally the
dumbed-down movie season - such films as The
Bourne Identity, Minority Report, Insomnia and
K-19: The Widowmaker.
But the best of the lot - by a mile - is
Road to Perdition.
E-mail address: jgarner@
Road to Perdition
Starring: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman.
Director: Sam Mendes.
Opens today: See movie listings, Page 4C.
Length: 111 minutes.
Rated: R, violence.
Web: www.road toperdition.com.
Jack's rating: With 10 as a must-see, this
The cast of Road to Perdition includes Paul
Newman, left, as a crime boss Tom Hanks as Michael
Sullivan, his main henchman and Jude Law as the
man hired to hunt down Sullivan.
DreamWorks Pictures / Twentieth Century Fox
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