Road To Perdition
***.2 GM
Starring: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Tyler Hoechlin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Daniel Craig, Stanley Tucci


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This kid shouldn't have stayed in the picture.

My impression of this film from all the commercials I'd seen for it was that it would be a pretty standard crime story slowed down and stuffed full of swelling, ain't-we-important music to make it seem more meaningful. I'd hoped that wouldn't be the case, because I dig Tom Hanks and I dig Paul Newman, and I wanted this to be more than a "please give me the Oscar" movie. The fact that it was released in July seemed to clue me in to the thought that it wouldn't be quite up to snuff.

That's not to say that it isn't a GOOD movie. It's just nothing really special. Tom Hanks is Michael Sullivan, a dour hitman brought into the business by a kindly old mob boss named Rooney (Newman), who gave them stuff when they had no stuff and has thus extracted a lifetime of blood-soaked service out of Sullivan in return. Trouble is that Rooney's son Connor (Craig) is jealous of the father-son relationship Old Man Rooney has with Sullivan, and after acting out one too many times in front of Sullivan's kid, Michael Jr., decides to ice Sullivan's whole family, but only gets his wife and the OTHER son that didn't witness any moidelizin'. So Mike and Mike Jr. set out to avoid the price on their heads and get revenge on Connor by making bad compromises and doing naughty things. All the while, Old Man Rooney feels like utter crap because his idiot son utterly destroyed his pseudo-son relationship, yet he can't bring himself to hang his idiot son out to dry.

Hanks is good as usual, this time playing against type as a hard-bitten gruff guy that wouldn't mind having a heart of gold if he was allowed to. Newman is his charming self here, playing the magnanimous and tortured old boss who gets sucked into a choice he never wanted to have to make. Craig is effectively aggravating as the jackass jealous type who thinks the world owes him something, and Stanley Tucci makes a fun Frank Nitti, even if the portrayal isn't much like the real Nitti at all.

The main problem that drags this film down is the performance of Tyler Hoechlin. As loath as I am to berate a child, he rarely managed to make me believe he wasn't just reciting his lines. The narration at the beginning and the end of the movie is just dreadful, lifeless and unnecessary. If you're a character in the 30s and you enunciate the 'and all' at the end of a sentence (i.e. "He had to take his pants off, on account of the itchin' and all"), you're not doing it right.

So the kid we're supposed to empathize strongly with being less-than-stellar coupled with the general predictability of the plot hold this film back from being as cool as it could be, but the performances of Tom Hanks and Paul Newman go a long way towards making this flick a good experience. C'mon, it's PAUL NEWMAN, fer cryin' out loud.

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