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Road to Perdition

1h 57m Drama, Adaptation, Films, Talk & Events 2002

Bonds of loyalty are put to the test when a hitman's son witnesses what his father does for a living.

TIFF Tribute award winner Sam Mendes directs Tom Hanks in a rare turn as the bad guy in this graphic novel adaptation about a mob enforcer avenging his family after their murder.

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Tom Hanks doesn’t play bad people very often ― he’s just too likeable an actor. But with his Gollum-esque turn as Col. Tom Parker in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis building awards buzz, it might be instructive to revisit his dark turn in Sam Mendes’ 2002 adaptation of Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner’s hard-boiled graphic novel. The grim Depression-era story casts Hanks as mob enforcer Michael Sullivan ― a man who’s awfully comfortable with violence as a tool of his trade, much as he tries to shield his family from it. But when his wife and young son are murdered, Sullivan is driven to use his special set of skills to avenge them ― and keep his older boy (Tyler Hoechlin) from meeting the same fate. Hanks didn’t bother with any elaborate makeup here, using only a period-appropriate mustache and a certain coldness around the eyes to play a character unlike any he’d attempted before. And Mendes ― whose new film Empire of Light is actively courting its own Oscar talk ― shrouds his star in darkness, working with his American Beauty cinematographer Conrad L. Hall to place Hanks and his co-stars (among them Daniel Craig, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Paul Newman) in an impeccably realized pulp-fiction universe. Twenty years later, Hanks’ performance feels like one of his sharpest, working against his inherent decency to create one of his most complex characters. Col. Tom wishes he had this guy on retainer.


Content advisory: violence, coarse language, sexual content


Sam Mendes




English [cc]