Road to Perdition (2002) — Who’s buying Tom Hanks as a gangster?

“May you get to Heaven an hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.”

DnaError’s rating: Ponderous Portant produces puffed up piffle

DnaError’s review: Road to Perdition is a wet movie, both physically and philosophically. Every scene is sticky with blood and rain, and so heavy it hits you like a sack of soaked newspapers. It belongs in a genre of movies like Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, so good I never want to see it again.

It’s not really anyone’s fault this movie leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Sam Mendes is able to produce amazing images, and Tom Hanks and Paul Newman give in stellar-as-always performances. But none of that can save the movie from its own impregnate of importance. Weighted down with Serious Symbolism, the movie lurches along, oozing a black tar of torpidity over the viewer. A sticky bitter taffy made for Oscar Bait, not the audience.

I had the same problem with Mendes’s other hit, American Beauty. Both movies resort to clichés and try to call them fresh, have long pans on powerful images, and both have a kind of art-house street cred where supposed to respect and hold up as Real Thinkful Film. While American Beauty was helped by levity and quick wit (It is, at its core, a black comedy) there is no humor in Road to Perdition. Like an overly earnest preacher, its too busy telling us themes too entertain us.

Yes, its about redemption and family life and crime. About the mythic symbolism of gangsters and ice-locked Chicago, and the burden of living up to a family name across generations. But why does it have to be this inert?

Didja notice?

  • Mendes Staples? Center-lit family scenes, long still shots, and Heartwarming American Clichés.
  • The kid has the acting ability of a rotting leg?
  • In the reverse shots of Mike Sullivan, Jr., when he’s being driven through the snowy town by his father, an angel can be seen in the frost on the rear window over his left shoulder.
  • When Jude Law’s character Harlan McGuire first appears, the infamous “Vertigo shot” is used.

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