Updated: Jan 27
"Road to Perdition" (2002) Directed by: Sam Mendes.
Tom Hanks and Paul Newman sit at a piano together in this movie. It's a touching moment between a Boss and his Lieutenant before all hell breaks loose between these two giants. But the whole story could be chalked up to a tame adaptation of the real life of John Patrick Looney - a gangster in Rock Island, Illinois at the top of the 20th Century.
Out of the sphere of, yet just as dangerous as, Capone - the Rock Island crime lord used his influence as a lawyer, a yellow journalist, and a boss to extort, bribe, and threaten anyone who got in the way of his operation. When one of his lieutenants was arrested for extortion, he went to the mayor to plead that his guy not be prosecuted. The mayor refuses, so Looney writes newspaper articles accusing the mayor of seeing a prostitute named Ethel. The mayor shuts down the paper and has Looney arrested. Subscribers to his paper show up at the jailhouse, ostensibly for a rally for a political candidate, which turns into a full out riot.
2 rioters die, many are injured, and what happens to Looney? Well, the Governor isn't going to put up with riots, so he sends in the National Guard. They bust up the prostitution houses, close the saloons, and Looney leaves town for New Mexico. But he comes back! Nine years later he comes back, runs all the vice in the town, and starts a gang and newspaper war. It all comes crashing down in the course of a year and he once again flees to the Southwest.
Two years he's on the run before seeing a trial. Here's a lawyer, father and family man, and crimelord - and while some people may not like how movies change the names or the histories and endings of some people's lives, this one seems to work. Road to Perdition isn't an attempt to redeem anyone. The movie doesn't take sides. But it allows us to see the depth and inner turmoil of these men of violence. You don't have to be a wise guy to see the fathers and sons in this picture.
We can watch the way their actions and choices resonate into their children's lives. So maybe this movie based on a graphic novel based on a real life isn't too far from the truth for us to believe it. Moviegoers certainly thought so. It was made for $80m and took in $181m, more than half coming from domestic box office. Watch this one with family.