Tom Hanks has given audiences hours upon hours of great entertainment during his lengthy and very successful career. While many of his roles have revolved around comedy, Hanks has been known to spread his wings to other genres of moviemaking with great results. One of those highly regarded movies has just hit Netflix.
Road To Perdition is bleak, but that’s not saying it isn’t a good movie. It is. The film is set in 1931 during the Great Depression and stars Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan, a Rock Island, Illinois enforcer for Irish mob boss John Rooney (Academy Award-nominated Paul Newman).
Sullivan, an orphan as a kid, was raised by Rooney, who has come to love Sullivan more than he does his own son Connor (Daniel Craig). Connor is unpredictable and holds a lot of jealousy when it came to his father and Sullivan.
During a wake in which Rooney is holding for the brother of “business associate” Finn McGovern, it is apparent that McGovern feels Rooney is responsible for his brother’s death. Rooney then sends Connor and Sullivan to McGovern, ordering them just to talk to him, but an altercation ensues, and Connor ends up killing McGovern. Sullivan also has to take to arms and wipes out McGovern’s men. Unbeknownst to both men, Sullivan’s 12-year-old son, Michael Jr. (played by a young Tyler Hoechlin, the actor most well-known for playing Superman) has stowed away in the back seat and is witness to all the violence.
It’s then that the Tom Hanks character, Sullivan, swears his son to secrecy and assures Rooney the same. Later, Rooney sends Sullivan to collect a debt from a speakeasy owner, Tony Calvino, but before he leaves, Connor sends a letter for Sullivan to deliver to the speakeasy owner. Sullivan does what Rooney asks, then presents the letter to Calvino, who reads it then reaches for his gun. Sullivan ends up killing Calvino and his bodyguard then reads the letter for himself. It says, “Kill Sullivan and all debts are paid.”
Sullivan knows his family is in danger and speeds home, but Connor has already come and gone. Sullivan arrives to his murdered wife and youngest son. Michael Jr. survives by hiding away from Connor. Now, father and son are on the run.
Sullivan takes his son to Chicago, where his plan is to work for Al Capone so he can learn the location of Connor, who has gone into hiding. Frank Nitti (Stanley Tucci), one of Capone’s top henchmen, rejects Sullivan’s offer. Upon hearing Sullivan is out to kill Connor, Rooney reluctantly sends out hitman Harlen Maguire (Jude Law) to take out Sullivan.
After a failed hit attempt by Maguire, an injured Sullivan is on the run with his son. They find themselves at the farm of an elderly couple, who help nurse Sullivan to health, and it is the first time father and son begin to bond.
But that isn’t the end of the Tom Hanks character. No, Sullivan has much-unfinished business to tend to. He needs to track down Connor while trying to stay one step ahead of the hitman. His fatal confrontation with Rooney doesn’t get him the answers he needs, but Nitti eventually does.
Road to Perdition is ultimately a movie about fathers and sons and their relationships. The Tom Hanks movie was based on a graphic novel of the same name but though violent, the violence of the graphic novel was toned down for the movie. Max Collins wrote the graphic novel and said his story was highly influenced by the Lone Wolf and Cub manga series which, in turn, became a well-known and highly regarded and brilliantly bloody series of Japanese movies.
Sam Mendes brought The Road Perdition to life. Throughout the writing process, with the script being written by David Self, Mendes moved further and further away from the source material, something that Max Collins, the graphic novel author, was not fully on board with. Collins opposed the use of vulgar language as it didn’t fit his vision of what 1931 looked like. He also wasn’t on board with Michael Jr’s path, as in his novel, Michael Jr. killed a man, while in the movie he does not.
Collins can’t complain about the results though. Mendes’s approach and choice to use minimal dialogue, especially in the film’s final 20 minutes, was a hit. Fans took to the fact that the Tom Hanks character was type against cast in this film and bought into him being a gangster heavy.
Mendes was given $80 million to bring his version of Road to Perdition to the big screen and it paid off. The Tom Hanks-led film brought in close to $184 million at the box office while also earning five Academy Award nominations including one for Paul Newman for Best Supporting Actor.
As for Tom Hanks, Road To Perdition premiered in 2002, a time where just about anything he touched was a box office hit. He had made a nice jump from comedy to the serious with the 1998 hit Saving Private Ryan while that same year he went back to his roots with You’ve Got Mail. He followed both of those movies up with Stephen King’s The Green Mile, another big hit, and then put his body through the wringer with his role in Cast Away.
It was hit after hit for Tom Hanks. He took on Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon in three separate movies, The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and Inferno. He became Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks and he also continued to work for Disney by voicing Woody in the Toy Story franchise. There may not be a more consistent box office performer than Tom Hanks.
Up next for Tom Hanks is Finch where he plays a dying inventor and one of the last men on Earth. Then Hanks will be seen as Elvis Presley’s famous manager Colonel Tom Parker before he returns to his Disney ways as Geppetto in the live-action version of Pinocchio.
Until then, if you’re wanting to see a different Tom Hanks on the small screen, head on over to Netflix and give Road to Perdition a go. It may be a little dark for Tom Hanks’ fans, but it is well worth it.