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Review written by: Alex Sandell
Take your best shot! (No, I can't
believe I just made that pun, either.)
who's who of acting talent such as Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Jennifer
Jason Leigh, and Stanley Tucci, it is quite extraordinary that the star of Road
to Perdition turns out to be its cinematographer. Conrad L. Hall is a
genius. He can remind us, with something as simple as a long shot of a car
driving down an old country road, that film can hold its own against any
consider what Hall did for exceptional films such as, Searching For Bobby
Fischer, Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, In
Cold Blood, Cool Hand Luke, and American
Beauty, you know that his work, when combined with the right material,
can be mesmerizing. Auspiciously, for more undistinguished films that he
ends up working on, such as, A Civil Action, Jennifer
Eight, and the shockingly substandard, Road to Perdition, his
incredible eye can remove the stink from celluloid shit and leave a roomful of
"in-the-can" corpses smelling like roses. I feel it's safe to
say that without the incredible job Mr. Hall did on the film, Road to
Perdition would have been a mid-summer, made-for-TV movie, quickly forgotten
when the next season of Friends began.
acting in the film is more than adequate, but it isn't up to the level one would
expect it to be with a cast of superlative actors like the one that is assembled
here. The screenplay is a humdrum revenge story that we've seen done
hundreds of times, at least half of those times with Mel Gibson in the lead.
Most surprising is the plodding directing perpetrated by none other than Sam
Mendes, who is obviously going through a sophomore slump after the rose-petal
packed reverie that was, American Beauty.
last year's wearisome, From Hell , Road to
Perdition is a serious film based on a serious graphic novel. With two
duds in a row, both based on comic books (graphic novels) that I enjoyed
immensely, I am starting to believe that the transition from serious comic to
even more serious film is one that should no longer be attempted. Both
films cut out the fringe elements that made the comics they were based on
entertaining, only leaving, and expanding upon, the book's core. The
problem with this approach is that once you remove the fringe elements of a
comic book story -- the odd character quirks, the offbeat subplots, etc. -- you
are left with a fairly contrived and predictable plot.
obvious that everyone involved with Road to Perdition were doing his or
her best to reach beyond "comic book" status. The movie was
meant to have a nice little "Academy Award Winning" label above its
title. They pulled out all the big guns for this one, and then almost
every one of them backfired.
Newman, as John Rooney, has a finely nuanced performance that is shaved down to
not much more than a glorified cameo. Taking on the role of the elder
Michael Sullivan, Tom Hanks comes across as nothing more than a nice guy with a
big gun. He doesn't appear comfortable playing the downtrodden gangster
forced into a life of avenging his family while, at the same time, trying to
raise his 12-year-old son. Jennifer Jason Leigh, playing Sullivan's wife,
is the latest in a long line of leading Hollywood actresses taking small, yet
crucial, roles opposite Tom Hanks. Stanley Tucci does alright with what he
is given, but he isn't given all that much. The only actor who really
sparkles in the film is Jude Law, playing a creepy cameraman named Maguire.
He's equally sinister and serene, enveloped and enlightening. He makes the
movie more than the sum of its parts and I hope he gets that Best Supporting
Oscar that was robbed from him last year for his performance as Gigolo Joe in
the stunning, A.I..
being said, is it
or isn't it worth taking a trip down the road to Perdition? If you can
tolerate the predictable plot, dowdy directing, and familiarity of the film, hop
onboard once and drink up the scenery. Conrad L. Hall has made sure to give you something visually
compelling to look at during the ride, even though you may ultimately feel that
there were more empty calories consumed by keeping your eye on the road than
there was in the greasy buttered popcorn you ate while taking the tour.
On a scale of 1-10?
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Text ©(Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].
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