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Road to Perdition
2002 - PG-13 - 140 Mins.
Director: Sam Mendes
Producer: David Brown, Richard D Zanuck, Dean Zanuck
Written By: David Self
Starring: Tom Hanks, Jude Law, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Stanley Tucci
Review by: David Trier
Whatever happened to the lovable guy from Splash and Big? Oh well.

So emotionally distant but generally nice guy Mike Sullivan (Tom Hanks) apparently does dirty work for local mob boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). All is well and good until Mike's unhealthily inquisitive son Michael, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) witnesses an evening of bloody bullet sharing. Concerned that a 12-year-old kid may not be a posterboy for confidentiality, Rooney's psychotic son Connor (Daniel Craig) tries to kill them. Well, that's no good. So Mike and Michael, Jr. (yes, that does become annoying) hit the road in search of some combination of hiding and avenging. To catalyze the situation, they are hunted by a creepy hit man played by Jude Law.

One more nail has been put in the coffin of the Tom Hanks we knew from Bosom Buddies. It seems every movie he's in now has to be some major event in cinema. Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Castaway - each claiming larger profundity than the last. But these movies are just so damn big, we fail to see Tom Hanks as the character - we instead see him as the intensity machine. How serious will he be in THIS movie? we ask. Well, to his credit, although his facial features seem to be melting, Hanks satisfies our curiosity with another heartfelt, albeit uninspired, performance. And Paul Newman doesn't disappoint either. He seems to become more intimidating with age and frankly, I'm a little uneasy when I buy a competitor's salad dressing. Jude Law deserves praise for pulling off "ugly" so convincingly. A bit of a prettyboy, he has every opportunity to be Freddy Prinze, Jr. and has apparently chosen a more artistic path. His portrayal of a balding, rotten-toothed hitman is one of Perdition's best features. Daniel Craig also delivers an intense performance as the loose cannon, Connor.

One of the worst features, however, is the mind-numbingly dull and unexpressive Tyler Hoechlin. We can't demand seasoned perfection from child actors, but there should be a better screening process for kids who are going to be in almost every scene (and opposite Tom Hanks). This kid's eyebrows do most of the acting and there's no moment when one actually believes he has an understanding of the scene. In all fairness, he may have been directed not to have any reactions or emotions, but with such an important character, this really is a disappointment.

The story isn't particularly original or even all that credible. Sullivan seems like an awfully nice guy to be working for the mob. And it's hard to believe he never considered that his son would see him kill someone. It's equally hard to believe the ease with which they both escape death throughout the film. And although the father-son connection is appealing, it isn't anything we haven't seen before. But Perdition is generally well acted, and although it's unnecessarily slow, I wouldn't classify it as boring. Many of the "surprises" are very predictable, but a few of them make for great moments. However, the film is more about the director of photography than it is about anything else. Each scene is beautifully shot and bookended by masterful transitions. This alone makes the film worth a rental at any rate.

In the end, I left the theater a little conflicted. Like so many films these days, Road to Perdition "looks" fantastic and impressive, but is ultimately a bland and uninspiring story about people who are oh-so-surprised when their life of crime results in disappointment. Well, this is why I don't take jobs where I have to kill people. And I do get offered them all the time. Maybe I need a new agent.
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

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