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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Russian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    Hebrew, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Turkish, Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian
  Extras
  • 11 Deleted scenes
  • Audio commentary - Director Sam Mendes
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette
  • Production notes
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • TV spot

Road to Perdition

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 112 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

If bets had been placed on the type of story which Sam Mendes would have gone with to follow up his Oscar-gobbling American Beauty, it’s doubtful many would have thought of popping a few bucks on the nose of a Great Depression-era gangster flick based on a graphic novel (that’s adult speak for “comic book”). However, if you scratch the surface of Road to Perdition just a little, despite its complete lack of comedic overtones it does actually have certain parallels with its predecessor – and it most definitely has a lot more going on than being just another bang-bang-shoot-shoot mobster flick.

Sure the world of Al Capone and his cronies is where the entire tale takes place, a world where trust is nought but an interesting theory, however the foundation of Road to Perdition is in its father and son relationships, most notably those of Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks). A father of two boys, his bond with them is a distant one at best – in fact they have absolutely no idea what he even does for a living. Sullivan is also “like a son” to he who basically “rules the town like God rules the earth”, mob boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). In return for doing the types of jobs gangsters do, Rooney has provided a home for Sullivan’s family, a steady income and a paternal influence on his life. His obvious affection for Michael is something of a sticking point for Rooney’s biological son, the rather flaky and obnoxious Connor (Daniel Craig), so when Sullivan’s elder son, also named Michael (Tyler Hoechlin in his film debut), stows away in the mobster-mobile one night and witnesses the kind of work his Pa is involved in, the younger Rooney sees his chance to exact a little jealous revenge under the auspices of protecting his family’s business interests. And what a series of events ensues. Circumstances basically dictate that the two Michael Sullivans must hit the road for self protection, from essentially the entire Chicago mob, and a rather odd hired assassin named Maguire (Jude Law), who has a thing for photographing his victims and subsequently selling the spoils.

"This is the life we chose, the life we lead. There is only one guarantee – none of us will see heaven."

It may all sound like a fairly simplistic plot of betrayal with lots of guns, however Road to Perdition is about as much of a whimsically naked romp in the forest as Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. It is a relentlessly dark, oppressive and imposing film, both in its story and its simply incredible, often awe-inspiring cinematographic look. Once again Mendes has teamed with brilliant director of photography Conrad L. Hall, and anybody with even a whiff of interest in how simply amazing a film can look should snap this little (Rottweiler) puppy up quick smart. With often stunning use of tracking shots, the unrelentingly dingy settings of a Chicago winter and some of the most untypical points of view you’re likely to see, what is a totally insistently gruesome tale – one which leaves you almost gasping for breath by its end - manages to attain a certain disturbing but undeniable beauty in its appearance.

Visual prettiness is one thing, but it ain’t worth nothin’ without the acting oomph to back it up. It gets kind of boring finding superlatives for Tom Hanks, as it seems no matter what he turns his hand to he excels. His portrayal of Sullivan Sr. as a quite cold and emotionless, unsmiling (well, one corner of his mouth turns up a millimetre or two at one point) is poles away from any of his previous cinematic undertakings, yet still he nails it to perfection. He’s ably helped by young Hoechlin, who displays a skill which belies his lack of experience – especially as the two’s relationship develops as the film progresses. Despite having lesser roles, the on-screen presences of Newman and Law in particular are hard not to notice.

  Video
Contract

With such a powerhouse of visual creativity, you want a snazzy transfer to back it up, and for the most part this is what we get. Coming to us with an anamorphically enhanced, 2.35:1 picture, other than the surprising inclusion of a few speckles here and there and the odd halo effect the transfer seems to reflect directorial intention (as mentioned in Mendes’ commentary) particularly well. There is some grain throughout, but this was the look that was required – and it’s never imposing. It possibly doesn’t help at times with odd examples of aliasing and shimmer; however these too are at a minimum. The colour palette is quite limited – this is a dark film in more than story content – with a predominance of greens, greys and browns. However, when called to brighten up a bit it does so effortlessly, and most importantly for such a visually dingy film shadow detail is superb. Add a well-placed layer change which is virtually imperceptible to the mix and this is a very good transfer of an amazing looking film.

  Audio
Contract

The only audio option is Dolby Digital 5.1 – although you can opt for the slightly differently pitched Russian if you’re feeling frisky – but who cares when it sounds this good? This is with a caveat – there’s not a whole lot of sonic hoopla for such things as a subwoofwoof to get caught up in, rather it is employed as it should be, to add suitable bass to the regulation gunshots and the like, and give a little bit of a helping hand to the score at times. Otherwise we get quite a front-heavy mix for what is mostly quite a quiet, dialogue-driven film; however when the sound opens up – and it certainly does to quite jarring effect on occasions – the rears are employed judiciously and effectively. Most importantly all dialogue is remarkably clear at all times.

The very able Thomas Newman’s name is on the score credit, and his deft mixture of more classic symphonic soundtrack techniques with Celtic sounds works a treat. Mercifully there’s no Celine or Mariah wailing away over the end credits, either – some other directors of what you could pretty much describe as historical dramas should take note...

  Extras
Contract

A reasonable amount of extras have been assembled for this release, easily the best of which is Sam Mendes’ commentary. Despite lapsing into the odd silences at times, he manages to impart a lot of technical information whilst remaining interesting to listen to. He also contributes commentaries to the 11 deleted scenes which are included. Annoyingly presented without a ‘play all’ option, these total just over 19 minutes in length, carry Dolby Digital stereo sound and are all in 16:9-enhanced 2.35:1 with a quality close to the final product. Mendes delves intelligently into the thinking behind these deletions – they weren’t all due to stupid test audiences – and most of them tend to deal with further enhancement of familial relationships throughout the film. Anybody wondering why Anthony Lapaglia gets a thankyou in the end credits of the feature will get the answer here – his scene playing a somewhat dishevelled Al Capone got the chop as in the end it was decided his presence was more menacing by not actually showing him.

Next up is a pretty run-of-the-mill making of feature, which is essentially 24 minutes of the typical Hollywood pap that usually passes for such presentations. Despite serving up interviews with most of the cast and many interesting crew members, they don’t manage to do much more than impart how simply wonderful everybody else was. Considering the emotional impact of the film, this serves as quite a disappointment.

Rounding out the whole package are an inconsequential 30-second TV advertisement for the film’s soundtrack CD, a photo gallery of 50 stills, eight cast bios which take a fairly standard awards won/brief history/abridged filmography approach and, finally, what is a quite fabulous set of informative production notes, if you are prepared to invest the time to wade through 24 pages of them.

  Overall  
Contract

If you were expecting American Beauty II from Mendes then you’re likely to be bitterly disappointed with Road to Perdition. However, if you’re not one to expect endless regurgitation from your directors, and you’re after a decidedly dark, dramatic and often thrilling take on the whole gangster world of the ‘30s which gradually sucks you vacuum-like into your seat and will have you riveted for its almost two hour length then this is hard to go past. Great video and audio seal the deal, although extras junkies may feel a little short changed.

Still, in the end it’s the film that counts, and this is a superb companion for mob-flick aficionados to stick on the shelf next to the likes of the Godfather trilogy and Goodfellas.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2343
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      And I quote...
    "A superb companion for mob-flick aficionados to stick on the shelf next to the likes of the Godfather trilogy and Goodfellas..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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