HTF REVIEW: "Road To Perdition" (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 26, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Road To Perdition

    Studio: DreamWorks
    Year: 2002
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 117 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: English, French and Spanish

    Pray for Michael Sullivan

    It seems less than often these days that I sit
    down to review a new DVD title and find myself
    suddenly immersed in something very special. In
    this case, I found Road To Perdition to be
    one of those rare solidly good films that brings
    together a superlative cast, good characters and
    an interesting story.


    The film is based on a Max Allan Collins graphic
    novel (an expanded comic book) that takes place in
    the year 1931 -- the time of the Great Depression
    and Prohibition. It is the era of Al Capone, hit men
    and sawed-off shotguns. Tom Hanks plays Michael
    Sullivan, a devoted father to two sons, Peter (Liam
    Aiken) and Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), and a
    loving husband to Anne (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
    Micheal has a deep dark secret that he keeps from
    his sons; that he works as a hitman for the Irish
    mob headed up by John Rooney (Paul Newman).

    Mike's children are at the age where they want to
    know where their father is disappearing to every
    night of the week. From such curiosity, his eldest
    son stows away under the back seat of their old
    Model A. As fate would have it, the night he does
    this is the night Mike and Connor (Daniel Craig) end
    up dealing with a loud-mouthed brother of a dead man.


    When young Micheal becomes witness to a terrible
    act committed from Connor the kid's doom is sealed,
    regardless of assurances otherwise. Being very
    careful not to reveal too much of the shocking
    storyline that follows, let me say that for the
    rest of this film, Sullivan finds himself on the
    run trying to save the life of his son and at the
    same time looking for revenge on those who wronged
    him while being pursued by an eccentric hit man,
    played by Jude Law. On the way, Sullivan rediscover's
    a love and respect for his son that he did not have
    before. The bonding between father and son becomes
    very moving and powerful.


    Tom Hanks is superb as a quiet and reserved often
    brooding cold-blooded mob killer. For once, this
    is not a film that rests solely upon his shoulders.
    Paul Newman, still playing supportive roles,shows he
    still has what it takes to rise to the occasion as
    a classy old mob boss who's winding his career. As
    always, the presence of Jude Law is always welcome,
    and I was kind of tickled to seeing him here as an
    odd-ball photographer/hit man whose characteristics
    somewhat reminded me of Charlie Chaplin's Little

    This film reteams American Beauty director
    Sam Mendes and Director of Photography Conrad L.
    Hall. While I was a bit disappointed that Mendes
    used too much atmosphere to stand in the way of his
    storytelling, I couldn't help but lose myself in
    Hall's visuals filled with light and shadows. The
    cinematography is just gorgeous here -- immersing
    the viewer so completely in it's rain-soaked world.
    I don't think I have ever seen rain roll off the
    brim of a hat as beautifully as I have seen in this
    film. It's very sad that Conrad Hall recently
    passed away in Santa Monica, CA this past January.
    This DVD release dedicates the film in his memory.

    How is the transfer?

    DreamWorks sent out review copies very late, thus
    I had the opportunity to read a lot of early comments
    about the overall transfer quality, some of which
    were downright complaints about the way the film

    Honestly, I had a few initial issues with the way
    this DVD looked. Images seemed to be very soft,
    and sometimes a little drab. Though images were
    nicely detailed with excellent black levels, nothing
    about the imagery seemed to leap off of the screen.

    Thing is, I suddenly realized that this is the way
    the film was supposed to look. The gray tones
    and the many sequences shot in semi-darkness give the
    film a somber, retro quality that perfectly resembles
    the period of the Great American Depression. It can
    only best be described as modern movie that faithfully
    resembles a 1940’s black-and-white picture done in
    color. When you realize what the director and
    cinematographer were after, the transfer suddenly
    took on an entirely new meaning. Colors look very
    natural and very well saturated here.


    The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is not as aggressive
    as I would have hoped. Still, the front channels do
    a superb job of mixing dialogue with Thomas Newman's
    unmemorable score that comes across with wonderful
    dynamics. The rears only provide ambient support with
    a few selected effect noises (mostly during shoot-out
    scenes). This certainly wasn't one of those instances
    where I found myself immersed in an enveloping surround

    Special Features


    DreamWorks has released Road To Perdition in
    no less than 3 separate editions. You have a Full-Frame
    version that I recommend to no-one. Then there are
    two separate Dolby Digital and DTS versions. The
    DTS version includes a DD track, but lacks the HBO
    featurette described below. Though I normally always
    prefer DTS over DD, I really don't see how DTS could
    expand upon a mix that isn't very aggressive in the
    first place.

    First up is a full-length commentary by director
    Sam Mendes which is an enjoyable listening experience
    thanks for the fact the director really gives us a
    wealth of information on the overall production of this
    film from some of the difficult edits he had to do,
    to mixing the film's soundtrack, on down to working
    with cinematographer Conrad L. Hall in getting the right
    look for the picture. Mendes seemingly holds your
    hand as he takes you through every scene giving you
    the not only the finer points of what is happening,
    but telling the story of the film through the eyes
    of the characters themselves. You can really tell
    that Mendes has a real passion for this film that
    comes across strongly through this commentary.


    There are eleven deleted scenes that are mostly
    extensions of existing scenes. Many of these scenes
    explore inner tensions between the characters and
    their relationship to each other as well as the
    community around them. There's even a cameo
    appearance here by Anthony LaPaglia as Al Capone,
    which is hard to look at after you have seen Robert
    DeNiro's famous portrayal in The Untouchables.
    The material presented here is in excellent condition
    and is supplemented with optional commentary (with
    subtitles) from director Sam Mendes.
    (length: approx. 15 minutes)


    HBO Making of Road To Perdition is the usual
    run-of-the-mill fluff piece that only serves as a
    promotion for the film but does manage to give us
    a lot of background information in the process. It
    takes us from Dean Zanuck's almost accidental
    reading of the original graphic novel through
    adapting the film for the screen. There are plenty
    of interviews here with the entire cast and crew as
    well as lots of behind-the-scenes footage. I
    particularly enjoyed the fact that this featurette
    touched upon Cinematographer Conrad L. Hall, not
    only giving us an overview of his 40-year career
    in film, but offering us an interview (perhaps his
    last) in the process. To change topic, I don't mean
    to be cruel here, but doesn't Producer Richard D.
    Zanuck look and sound exactly like Gary Oldman in
    (length: approx. 24 minutes)

    Rounding out the extras are production notes
    that tells how the film went from the hands of
    Dean Zanuck to director Sam Mendes. There are also
    separate cast and filmmaker filmographies as
    well as an oddly presented photo gallery that
    is ruined by the fact it is covered by overlays.

    What is most noticeably missing here is the film's
    original theatrical trailer which I remember to be
    quite good. Why on earth DreamWorks decided to omit
    this from the DVD release is just beyond me.

    Final Thoughts


    Road To Perdition is just a fine crafted,
    gorgeous to look at old-time gangster tale with a
    great story and superb cast. It's just short of
    becoming a masterpiece.

    I'm not entirely sure that DreamWorks took the best
    "road" by releasing three separate editions of this
    DVD other than the fact that they were probably
    looking at saving consumers money over purchasing
    a mega 2-disc set that had every version imaginable
    on it.

    I am placing this on my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED list
    because it is a film that deserves your attention.

    Release Date: NOW

    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. Tony-B

    Tony-B Producer

    Jun 30, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Yet another great review, Ron!
  3. Brajesh Upadhyay

    Brajesh Upadhyay Supporting Actor

    Jul 11, 1998
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for your review. I missed this one in theatres & I'm really looking forward to the DVD! I ordered the DTS edition.
  4. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

    Jun 30, 1997
    Likes Received:
    The DTS mix is actually pretty impressive---when the El train goes through in one scene the whole house shook. I didn't check it against the DD version, but if that's not an aggressive mix then the DTS is cooked. Lots of surround action and deep bass; the gunfire panicked my poor dog, and I was playing it well below reference.
  5. Dean DeMass

    Dean DeMass Screenwriter

    Jun 30, 1997
    Likes Received:
  6. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

    Oct 31, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Well that HBO special looks to be pretty cool (I'm a sucker for those things and I'd like to see the interview w/ Conrad Hall) so it looks like I'm going to purchase the DD version of this one.
  7. Tom J. Davis

    Tom J. Davis Second Unit

    May 30, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Can't wait to see this one! Great review Ron.
  8. Yumbo

    Yumbo Cinematographer

    Sep 13, 1999
    Likes Received:
    rent the DD, buy the DTS!
  9. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
    Likes Received:
    I thought that Paul Newman was superb in this movie, and far too little screentime imo

  10. Paul Case

    Paul Case Supporting Actor

    Jan 5, 2002
    Likes Received:
    The DTS track is definitely an improvement over the DD track, in my opinion. It's definitely worth missing out on the HBO fluff piece.
  11. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer

    Aug 20, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Thomas Newman's
    unmemorable score that comes across with wonderful

    Why do you think the score is unmemorable? I have only been able to watch about 15 minutes of the movie, but I thought the opening bars of the score sounded pretty good. I bought the disc sight unseen and wasn't too sure whether the movie was going to be any good, but after hearing the opening music I am convinced that I haven't completely wasted money.
  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    I found the score more intrusive than enjoyable.

    Certainly not as memorable than some of his better
    efforts like Fried Green Tomatoes, American Beauty
    and Shawshank Redemption.
  13. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:

    I guess to each his own because the soundtrack of this film is my favorite of 2002.

  14. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer

    Aug 20, 2000
    Likes Received:
    I found the score more intrusive than enjoyable.

    Hmmm. Thanks. I hope I can find some time tonight to watch the whole film. I might have a different view of the soundtrack once I hear the whole thing and not just a fifteen minute blurb.
  15. Declan

    Declan Second Unit

    Aug 22, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Trust me the last 15mins or so of the movie the score is beautiful and definitley one of my favourites (if not my favourite) score of 2002.

    I got the DTS version and consider the sound on it to be (for lack of a better word) masterful.

    Oh and if any of you live in the UK DVD Monthly have a free cover disc with this months issue that has the complete HBO documentary on it.[​IMG]

    Swwwweeeeeet[​IMG] [​IMG]
  16. Talal

    Talal Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 6, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Yeah, this film's score, along with SIGNS, were my faves of 2002.
    I just loved this film... perfect in every way as far as I'm concerned.
  17. Ryan_TD

    Ryan_TD Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 8, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Well, I'd have to agree that the music(score) was actually pretty amazing. In fact, come to think of it I remember saying this to myself after seeing American Beauty as well. Thomas Newman's got my props....
  18. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

    Oct 3, 2000
    Likes Received:
    I came across a rather interesting Easter Egg over at :

    Pretty neat.

    Solid review Ron! I love this movie.
  19. Stephen Orr

    Stephen Orr Screenwriter

    Mar 14, 1999
    Likes Received:
    We did not see this one in theaters, but bought it this week anyway, based on the strong reviews and, well, we like Tom Hanks and Paul Newman!
  20. Tommy G

    Tommy G Screenwriter

    Sep 19, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Great review Ron. I'd like to say you twisted my arm once again to purchase this dvd but I was already convinced beforehand. I picked this up on Tuesday and am more excited than ever to screen it on Friday due to your very favorable review. Once again [​IMG] to you Ron!

Share This Page