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Dan Heller's Movie Review of "Road to Perdition"


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Paul Newman
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"Road to Perdition" is interesting in many ways, but not all good. In some respects, it exhibits characteristics that reinforces what is turning out to be the current genre of the American cultural epic. Ironically, these are the same characteristics that keep such films from being better.

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Tom Hanks
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What makes "Road to Perdition" so American is the theme, mood and atmosphere that appeal to our sense of "old Americana." Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan, a right-hand hit-man of John Rooney, played by Paul Newman, who is the mob ruler of a small Midwestern town during the prohibition era of the 1930s. All is well and good, until one day, Sullivan's son hides as a stowaway in his dad's car, witnessing the murder of another member of the mob, who's been accused of skimming from the books. The rest of the movie is Sullivan and his boy trying to escape from the mob, all while establishing the father-and-son relationship they never had.

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Jude Law
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Essentially, the movie was intended as a portrait of a family-man torn between his love of his family and the loyalty to his mob boss. But, the portrait was never completed. The problems with the film started when it abandoned its heartland landscape and the slow moving rhythms of the portrait of Sullivan, to a semi-comedic farce about a man and his son on the run, robbing banks. In short, the film just got too simplistic for that drama that it wanted to be.

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Road to Perdition
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The best parts of the film are the acting from Hanks, and the mood, tone and general atmosphere of the movie overall. It's a great backdrop for the intended theme; I truly enjoyed these sensations from an ethereal point of view.

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Tyler Hoechlin
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What makes this and other movies like it so American - and thus, effective with American audiences - is how they portray what is now considered a stereotypical American lifestyle. Oddly enough, it's one that hasn't reflected the modern American family portrait in years. This almost makes such films more reminiscent than modern. In "Road to Perdition", as well as the recent "A Beautiful Mind", this aspect of Americanism can only be accomplished by keeping things simple.

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Paul Newman
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Yet, this is what makes these movies so shallow. They're too simplistic. The relationship between Sullivan and his son were never well-established, either in the beginning, or later when they "bonded." This had to be done in order to retain the film's ethereal "simplicity", making its mood and tone so powerful. But this at the expense of depth and meaning. Same thing with "A Beautiful Mind." Nowhere did we see the real trauma that John Forbes Nash experienced through his real-life conflicts with other mental problems and sexual experiences that were never shown in the movie.

While I enjoyed Perdition for its qualities, and enjoyed watching it in the theater, I felt it ultimately lost its grip on its purpose, and was ultimately more disappointed that it didn't live up to its potential.

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