With Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Directed by Sam Mendes
Reviewed by JB

"I want the salad dressing business, Paul... or Redford gets it."     THE ROAD TO PERDITION may be destined to be remembered as one of the early classics of the 21st Century.  Its cast, iconic enough with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, became retroactively even more interesting when Daniel Craig, who plays a particularly nasty gangster, went on to win the role of James Bond in 2006. 

   The story of a hitman father (Tom Hanks) and his son (Tyler Hoechlin) on the run from the mob, ROAD TO PERDITION is a gangster film in the tradition of THE GODFATHER.  Rather than concentrating on the ins and outs of gangsterism, as in a Scorsese film, ROAD TO PERDITION examines the impact of the gangster life on family.  As Whitman Michael Sullivan is forced to kill more and more people while trying to escape with his son, the film asks the same question THE GODFATHER films asked: is he a bad man, or a decent man doing bad things to protect his family? 

    Hanks inhabits the part of the quiet, thoughtful hit man/father so deeply that it is almost a shock, and a relief, when a humorous driving scene allows him to unleash a few seconds of Tom Hanks "schtick".  In only his third film, teen actor Tyler Hoechlin anchors the movie with his mature and natural performance as the boy who only gets to really know his father in the six weeks they are on the run.  Of course, there is also Paul Newman, who shines as only Paul Newman can as Tom's father-figure, the local mob king who is forced to order the killing of his surrogate son due to circumstances that have gone far beyond his control.  In a somber, moody film like this, there is no place for fireworks, so the pairing of Hanks and Newman does not result in any amazing revelations, but it is still a joy to watch two of Hollywood history's best actors work together in a film completely worthy of both of them.

     With two gun-happy hit men on the trail of Hanks throughout the film, the body count is rather high but the violence, like the performances or Hanks and Newman, is underplayed.  There is no over-the-top CASINO-style bloody mayhem here, even during two separate machine gun massacres.  Much of the violence is visually poetic, especially a scene late in the film when Hanks guns down an entire street full of thugs on a rainy evening.  

      Beautifully directed by Sam Mendes, who three years previously had directed the highly overrated Best Picture AMERICAN BEAUTY, ROAD TO PERDITION was strangely overlooked at the Oscars but is damn near perfect from first frame to last.  5 - JB

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