Road to Perdition (Mendes, 2002)

Looking back at this beautiful and frustrating straight up Noir from director Sam Mendes, it’s hard to get past the constant Hollywood gloss (i.e. Thomas Newman’s score and David Self’s book-ended voice over narration) or the tedious performance by child actor Tyler Hoechlin. However, watching Mendes’ sophomore effort for a second time, the faults are outweighed by Conrad L. Hall’s brilliant cinematography and Tom Hank’s solid performance. One ends up complimenting the other and there’s no better example than in the rain soaked shootout when Hanks guns down a group of gangsters in the dead of night. Mendes lowers the soundtrack and lets Hall tell the story with images, a welcome change from the rest of the film. When the bullets riddle each man without a sound, we get the sense Mendes is maturing into a major talent, not relying on the typical aesthetics to make an impact. It’s one of the most stunning sequences in American film and it’s too bad the rest of the picture doesn’t have that same magnetic feel. It’s also important to note Paul Newman and Daniel Craig, who both turn in complex and slithery performances, and the themes of stopping generational violence between father and son, expertly conveyed through Hank’s painful glances. Road to Perdition is not the masterpiece I remember and it’s tough to give up those memories of perfection. But there will always be Tom and Conrad shooting in the rain, and that is perfect.

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