Sunday, June 26, 2016
(June 1996, U.S.)
Has it really been twenty years since THE ROCK? Where the fuck has my youth gone??
(okay, I've temporarily gotten that anger out of my system...sort of!)
Michael Bay is a modern Hollywood film director that I have repeatedly slammed and bashed as nothing more than a sophisticated demolitions expert...and yet...well, there are always exceptions in life to even the most horrid of cinema's atrocities. From early on in my blog, those exceptions were three; the first being BAD BOYS (1995), the second being PEARL HARBOR (2001) and the third one being what I discuss now, THE ROCK, quite possibly, Bay's best film of his questionable career, and it's largely due to a man of such gifted talents as Sean Connery.
Set primarily on location at Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay Area, this action thriller fuses the elements of biological terrorism, the heroics of the U.S. Navy Seals and the questions and the controversies of American patriotism...and there's also Sean Connery, who proves that age doesn't reduce the hard-ass actions of the man who played James Bond so well. As John Mason, the only man in Alcatraz's history to ever successfully escape the legendary island, he's released from federal prison (from which he was unjustly put in the first place) to take part in a rescue operation of eighty-one tourists and the recovery of stolen armed rockets filled with a deadly gas in exchange for a full pardon. Alongside is FBI chemical weapons expert Stanley Goodspeed (played by Nicholas Cage) who has no field experience, but must be part of the dangerous mission, nonetheless, due to his extensive knowledge of disarming the weapons. The terrorist behind the great takeover is General Frank Hummel (played by Ed Harris), who has become grossly disenchanted with the way United States Marines have been forgotten about and swept under the rug by a government who lied to them and paid nothing to their families in financial compensations. Hummel threatens to launch the stolen rockets against the San Francisco citizens unless our U.S. government pays millions of dollars from a secret military slush fund, which he, in turn, will distribute to his group of mercenary men and the families of the Marines who seemingly died for nothing. This is, perhaps, where American patriotism is questioned, most particular in a scene in the shower area at Alcatraz where the Navy Seals manage to penetrate and confront their enemies in a fatal standoff. Before everyone begins shooting at each other, there is a rather poignant moment where Seals commander Anderson (played by Michael Biehn) expresses his sympathies and understandings for why Hummel feels disenchanted and angry with his government superiors, though he cannot condone the man's direct actions in trying to get what he feels is justice. There is a sense of great tragedy when American soldiers on opposite ends start killing each other, and I suspect Michael Bay appreciates this in not only the way the sequence is filmed, but also in the way the musical score turns somber and tragic. I suppose we can give Bay one solid point for emotion and feelings with this one. The rest is pure Bay action, thrills and fiery explosions in a way that does manage to work well with the story we're watching. I mean, if you're going to stop deadly chemical rockets from annihilating the population of San Francisco, sometimes you have to blow shit up...a lot of shit!
THE ROCK hardly engages one's brain, as violent action films go. In addition to the usual special effects, there are improbabilities and suspensions of disbelief one must contend with, but perhaps that's just part of what makes a good action film for the purposes of pure (and even mindless) escapism. Still, one can't ignore the positive elements that men like Connery, Harris and even Cage bring to the mix. They're all men of physical action, indeed, but there is some literate substance to their character performances and the human conviction each one holds to the story. There's even the right blend of wit to moves things along, especially the very end when Goodspeed momentarily tempts us with the secret behind who really killed John F. Kennedy. That's only a tease, of course, to conclude the Hollywood happy ending to the big crisis.
Favorite line or dialogue:
John Mason: "Are you sure you're ready for this?"
Stanley Goodspeed: "I'll do my best."
John: "Your "best"! Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen!"
(a good philosophy to remember in real life! Thanks, Sean!)
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
(July 1987, U.S.)
Paul Verhoeven's ROBOCOP may have been released in July of the summer of 1987, but I swear, it took me over a month to take notice of it. By late August, I was about a week away from returning to my college in Buffalo, New York and the bulk of my summer blockbuster season had been concentrated more on titles like THE UNTOUCHABLES, the newest Bond reboot in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS and more recently, Stanley Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET. By late August, it seemed as if there wasn't much left to feed on. When I finally got around to noticing ROBOCOP in the newspaper, my attitude and enthusiasm was really no more than, "Sure. Why not. One more movie before I shuffle back to Buffalo." Frankly, the entire premise seemed no more than a cheap remake of THE TERMINATOR (1984).
Actually, in a way, I was right. There are many echoes of THE TERMINATOR in ROBOCOP, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Like THE TERMINATOR, we're asked to take an inside look between what it means to be human versus machine. But above and beyond that, there are themes in this tale of the not-too-distant-future specified toward the influence of the media and the news as sensationalized entertainment, greed and capitalism, crime and corruption, and dystopia. At heart, however, this futuristic action film is centered on the meltdown of humanity as a result of economic meltdown and an uncontrollable crime rate in the city of Old Detroit, Michigan (think ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK without New York City!). The police are owned by a mega-corporation known as Omni Consumer Products (OCP) and the cops are getting their asses kicked (and killed) on the violent streets they're trying to protect. At the start of the film, there is talk about the police striking. Although the idea is immediately squashed, it's an important element that's being set up for later. Good cop Frank Murphy (played by Peter Weller) arrives as the new guy at the precinct and is paired up with new partner Anne Lewis (played by Nancy Allen - remember her in some of Brian DePalma's films?). Tragically, Murphy is killed on his first day out by a gang of hard-ass criminals led by Clarence Boddicker (played by Kurtwood Smith). Killed is putting it mildly. The poor man is absolutely slaughtered by an onslaught of gunfire which finally ends with one right to the head! And you want to tell me that he actually survived that bloody slaughter long enough to make it to the hospital (where he eventually does die)?? The now deceased Frank Murphy is selected for the RoboCop program and what is left of his useless body is replaced with cybernetics, except, that is, for his brain, his face and part of his digestive system which lives on baby food.
So now Murphy is gone and RoboCop has arrived. The new cyborg is given three primary directives: "Serve the public trust, Protect the innocent, and Uphold the law", as well as a classified fourth directive that he's unaware of. Like Superman on his first day out, he single-handedly and efficiently cleans up Detroit of its crime. As things progress, we learn of the city's true corruption as it appears that OCP Senior President Richard "Dick" Jones (played by Ronny Cox) is tied with Boddicker in a racket of drugs, gambling and prostitution. He's also the creator of "Directive 4" in which RoboCop cannot arrest any senior member of OCP. Any attempt to do such shall result in shutdown (yes, the bad man does know how to cover his ass!). RoboCop is also slowly learning who he was as Murphy and the wife and son he lost when he was murdered. Machine on the outside, yes, but it's really Murphy's humanity and the ability he still has to feel that elicits our sympathy and makes it all more than just mindless cyberpunk action. In the end, when all the bad guys are defeated and the police strike has actually taken place, it's still RoboCop that's on the job, though if you ask him his name, he'll reply, "Murphy". The police strike is what sets the stage for the inevitable sequel ROBOCOP 2 (1990), which, of course, sucked! Never saw ROBOCOP 3 (1993) and I won't! I did watch the 2014 remake DVD out of curiosity, but really, what was the point??
It's impossible not to discuss ROBOCOP without getting into its effects. CGI was still years away, so the old stop motion models of things like the ED-209 robot still work well. The true effects, however, probably lie more in the film's use of over-the-top gore. Now I've never seen any of THE TOXIC AVENGER films that were popular in the 1980s, but having to stare at this guy after taking an unexpected bath in toxic waste is certainly an experience in itself...
Geez! Those melting fingers are enough to keep me off my food for a week! And this monster is played by the same actor who played the shy, gay, red-headed kid in FAME (1980)! But for me, it's really Clarence Boddicker who absolutely steals the show! It's like watching a guy who bears resemblance to George Costanza play pure evil! The man likes no one, cares for no one, and won't hesitate to kill when he has to or if it just makes him feel good. But on the positive side, the man appears to love baseball; "Come on, Sal! The Tigers are playing...tonight! I never miss a game!"
Favorite line or dialogue:
Clarence Boddicker (to Frank Murphy before killing him): "You probably don't think I'm a very nice guy."
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
(June 1991, U.S.)
This film was released on June 14, 1991 - exactly twenty-five years ago! Just another one of my many blog coincidences that probably means nothing to anyone else but me because I'm the one that notices it and points it out. Such is life.
Twenty-five years! Wow! I was younger then and the movies were better! That particular summer of 1991, however, was probably my strongest in terms of moviegoing attendance. It's not an exaggeration when I tell you that I think I literally saw just about everything that was released on screen that summer; from the greats like BACKDRAFT, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, CITY SLICKERS and WHAT ABOUT BOB? to the pretty good like SOAPDISH, JUNGLE FEVER and DEAD AGAIN to the downright awful like LIFE STINKS and MOBSTERS. I think it was because I not only had a great girlfriend that summer (thanks, Daniela!), but I was also seeing my friends a lot more at night. That often meant movies, some titles more than once, including Kevin Costner's take on Robin Hood.
But let's stop to take a moment and reflect on the character first. Like Dracula and Hamlet, Robin Hood is one of those literary legends that has been done time and time again and by more actors than I can keep up with. Whether you prefer a man like Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Patrick Bergin, Russell Crowe or even Cary Elwes in Mel Brooks' 1993 Robin Hood spoof, would likely depend on your own generation's appreciations for the cinema's specific interpretation of each release. Personally, I'll take this little guy over all others...
(Yikes and away!!!)
So I suppose the first question that comes to mind is how well one can appreciate Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. On the one hand, this was a period of his career between THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987) and JFK (1991) when the man could seemingly do no wrong, so the film was bound to be a success. On the other hand, one has to ask if dear Kevin is too damn pretty or even just too damn American to play the classic English folk hero. Well, I suppose if British actor Anthony Hopkins could effectively play Richard Nixon, then anything is possible on the big screen. At a time when CGI was still getting itself off the ground, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES offers the romantic adventure of a familiar tale in a visual spirit that could easily be compared to Stanley Kubrick's SPARTACUS (1960), but on a significantly smaller scale. Certainly, Kevin Costner as Robin Hood offers a stronger degree of darkness, seriousness, violence, depression and far less camp than Errol Flynn did in Michael Curtiz's classic film (interestingly, though, there are moments of Michael Kamen's musical score that may remind one of that 1938 film). The darkness is actually what makes this film most attractive as an epic summer blockbuster; not just in its heroes, but in its villains, too, particularly that of the of the Sheriff of Nottingham (played by the late Alan Rickman) and his cousin Guy of Gisborne (played by Michael Wincott) who seem to take great pleasure in the pure evil of their roles, which is good for a film like this, of course.
While action, adventure and violent conflict are strong and played out well to the point of predictable fun (not necessarily for young children, though), it's actually the human story of Robin Hood's relationship with not only the men who are outlaws in Sherwood Forrest, but also with his love interest Marian (played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and his loyal friend Azeem (played by Morgan Freeman), a Moore who's life was saved by Robin and who now owes Robin a life debt, to be paid when Azeem deems worthy. Robin is a man of courage who can fight to the death with a blade of steel, indeed, but he's a human being who thinks, who feels and who hurts when the appropriate time call for it. These emotional redeeming qualities are perhaps the answer to my original question of what makes an actor like Kevin Costner qualified to play Robin Hood. Costner, love him or not, never fails to bring pure and sincere emotion to all his roles (even to the movies that aren't that good). I mean, let's face it - WATERWORLD (same director Kevin Reynolds) might have been a whole lot worse than it was had it starred someone else - or better, up to you). Perhaps we should also consider that in a modern world where civil rights, religious freedom, feminism and economic equality are constantly under fire, maybe it's a legendary folk hero like Robin Hood who can make us all open our eyes and take notice of what's right and what's wrong. We just need to get past the fact that Costner makes no attempt at an English accent (good or bad, you decide). In the end, more than anything else, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES is pure fun right to the very end, especially when Sean Connery (he played an aged Robin Hood in 1976's ROBIN AND MARIAN) makes his uncredited cameo appearance as King Richard. I love that!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Will Scarlett (after launching Robin and Azzem over the wall): "Fuck me, he cleared it!"
Did the word 'fuck' exist back in the Middle Ages??
Saturday, June 11, 2016
(October 1939, U.S.)
During Hollywood's "Golden Age of Cinema" (and exactly which decade that was is still a debatable point among those who know cinema best - I say it was the 1940s, but that's me!), the gangster film was a common or even a stereotypical sort of picture. They almost always took place during the time of Prohibition in America and if you've kept track well enough, a good many of them starred Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney, they featured rather hot blonde women (or dames, as they were affectionately referred to), and sometimes those dames even sang a song or two (too many songs in this film!) in the speakeasy they worked in. Raoul Walsh's THE ROARING TWENTIES not only conforms to the small checklist I just outlined (it actually stars both Cagney and Bogart), but it also may be the best gangster film that accurately describes the saga of Prohibition from its inception up to when it was finally repealed thirteen years after it began. This is fiction, mind you, so historical accuracy of the era may be taken with as much belief or disbelief as you're willing to offer. For a true and dead-on account of the era, I highly recommend Ken Burns' three-part PBS documentary PROHIBITION. It's fantastic!
As a gangster film, THE ROARING TWENTIES begins differently in as it introduces us to its main characters of Eddie Bartlett (Cagney), George Hally (Bogart) and Lloyd Hart (played by Jeffrey Lynn) when they're World War I foxhole soldiers in France simply trying to survive combat. The idea of criminal activity and a criminal lifestyle is not even a thought in their minds yet. Once back home, however, the Prohibition laws of the 18th Amendment that take effect at the start of the year 1920 offer new money-making opportunities to men who may not have even been able to previously secure a simple, straight job to keep a roof over their heads. Eddie and George are immediately sucked into the new life of bootlegging and the vast riches it brings. Even while a good man like Lloyd opens his own law practice, it's not too long before he's using his legal services to protect his old pals and their illegal businesses. And, of course, with this sort of business comes the inevitable violence that accompanies it. While George, like the stereotypical killer-type that seems to go so well with gangster films, is more than happy to shoot it out with the best of them, Eddie practices restraint when he feels it's necessary, particularly in moments of friendship and loyalty. In fact, it's friendship and loyalty that finally pushes Eddie over the edge when he's compelled to avenge the murder of an old friend by his enemies in crime.
Like Prohibition itself, the life and times of our gangster "heroes" are not meant to last forever. For as illegal booze has given riches of plenty to men like Eddie and George, it also takes away almost immediately after the infamous stock market crash of 1929 and Prohibition's repeal. Eddie is now a man in debt who's wealth is slowly draining right up until he's dead broke and merely a shell of the man and the "big shot" he used to be, as his girlfriend Jean (played by Priscilla Lane) puts it (you almost have to feel sorry for the poor bastard!). George, on the other hand, being a little more resourceful, underhanded and violent in his methods, manages to hold onto his crime syndicate a while longer, until he and his ol' pal Eddie must come face-to-face with each other in which neither of them will survive the bullets that fly.
As previously mentioned, this film, in my opinion, best describes the true chronological events of the Prohibition era largely in part due to its narration by John Deering. In between the fictional events of Eddie and George and their life of crime, we're given a look at the life of the average citizen during an era when liquor was declared illegal. We're meant to try and understand just how the unpopular laws of the time affected the average person who was still dying to have a drink or two, illegal or not. By the time the Great Depression has begun at the start of the 1930's, the unpopularity and the ineffectiveness for the U.S. government to uphold the Volstead Act tells us just how the laws are repealed, how the liquor flows again in great (and legal) quantities and how men like Eddie Bartlett and George Hally are put out of business...permanently.
The year 1939 has long been considered Hollywood's greatest year, with titles like GONE WITH THE WIND, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, WUTHERING HEIGHTS and THE WIZARD OF OZ, just to name some. It could have been very easy for what only seemed like a common gangster picture to be overlooked by the moviegoing public back then. That would have been unfortunate. In a vast array of gangster pictures that seemingly don't change much, THE ROARING TWENTIES stands out not only in it's educated depiction of an important part of American history, but also in its performances and dialogue by talented, legendary actors without offering too much camp or fluff in the life and depiction of the common bad guy. Director Raoul Walsh and James Cagney would come together again many years later to give us, perhaps, Cagney's greatest film, WHITE HEAT.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Narrator: "1929. As the dizzy decade nears its end, the country is stock market crazy. The great and the humble...the rich man and the working man...the housewife and the shop girl. All take their daily flyer in the market, and no one seems to lose. Then like a bombshell comes that never-to-be-forgotten Black Tuesday, October 29. Confusion spreads throughout the canyons of New York's financial district, and men stare wild-eyed at the spectacle of complete ruin. More than sixteen and a half million shares change hands in a single day of frenzied selling. The paper fortunes built up over the last few years crumble into nothing before this disaster which is to touch every man woman and child in America."
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
(May 1982, U.S.)
Back in 2012, I wrote a special supplement to my blog in which I described the year 1982 as the best blockbuster summer of all time and why I felt my opinion was justified. In short, it was a summer of wide diversity; for in as much popcorn fun as there was in films like ROCKY III, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, TRON and E.T.-THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL, there was also the terrifying darkness of POLTERGEIST, BLADE RUNNER, THE THING, PINK FLOYD THE WALL and THE ROAD WARRIOR. Sadly, I didn't get to see the movie on screen when it was in theaters, either because I was unaware of it's content, or perhaps my parents just forbade me to see something as violent as that.
Well, thank goodness for HBO a year later! I must have watched this dystopian, post-apocalyptic nightmare endless times when my parents weren't monitoring my TV viewing. I was simply blown away by it's original concept of mankind-gone-insane in a world where fuel and gasoline are a very rare commodity worth killing for. Then, alas, I learned THE ROAD WARRIOR was a sequel to MAD MAX from three years prior. Not that such a discovery made the film any less brilliant, mind you. It just opened my eyes a bit to how a simple science fiction concept could be introduced with a completely unknown actor to American audiences and then (almost literally) blow itself up to something of not just cult, but even potential Oscar status just one sequel later. However, back in the 1980s, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences never would have voted for such a violent screen display to compete for their precious statue. Decades later, MAD MAX:FURY ROAD (2015) seemed to change those guidelines, but more on that later.
So, THE ROAD WARRIOR begins with a narrated black and white montage telling us how the whole world went straight to Hell and showing us a few key moments from the previous film to give us an idea of where "Mad" Max (played by Mel Gibson) came from, the tragedy of losing his family to road gangs and where he stands now; a shell of man wandering the desolate and depopulated wastelands of Australia with his faithful dog in his black, scarred, supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special, scavenging for food, water, and the precious fuel. Always on the run from road gang members who want his car and his gas, he meets an eccentric pilot known as the Gyro Captain (played by Bruce Spence) who guides Max to a nearby small, isolated oil refinery populated by a community of good people still holding onto their humanity. Max arrives to find the facility under violent siege by a gang of marauders riding a motley collection of cars and motorcycles. The gang leader, known as the "Lord Humungus" (played by Kjell Nilsson), tries to convince the refinery's defenders to surrender the facility in exchange for a safe passage out of the wasteland (he actually almost sounds sincere when he keeps repeating the words, "just walk away"). Like many typical movie heroes, Max is not a man who wants to get involved with the problems and tragedies of others. His sole purpose in life is to survive. Even when he's offered the prospect of a viable future by the refinery leader, he rejects it to seek his own destiny on his own. And like many typical movie heroes, circumstance (or perhaps just plain, ol' bad luck) gives Max a change of heart and inspires him to lead the good people out of the wasteland hell and into the hopes of "paradise" which is only two thousand miles away. I must say, though, despite the film being filled with multiple car chase scenes, the climactic sequence when good and evil face off for the last time on the vast roads of the desert doesn't feel old or used up in any way. By the time it's all over, we come to actually believe that humankind may have a shining light ahead for itself. That's what we think, anyway, until two useless sequels take that dream away.
Let's speak of the evil that occupies this film for a moment. The thought of being unsafe on our roads in a doomed future is a frightening prospect in itself. But I have to say that the character of Wez (played by Vernon Wells) is one of the scariest and most psychotic motherfuckers I've ever seen on the motion picture screen! The man looks like part Devil's reject, part member of The Clash or any other sick punk rock band of the late '70s and early '80s...
Am I right?? Darth Vader, Voldemort, Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees...PUSSIES!!! THIS is a guy I don't ever want to run into under any circumstances, day or night! And if you pay close attention to his violent "kill them all" rage when his companion is killed by a flying boomerang/blade, it would appear that he's gay, too (not that there's anything wrong with that!).
While MAD MAX (1979) was a great film, THE ROAD WARRIOR clearly surpasses it. It's bigger, faster, louder, aggressive, relentless and exhilarating without being silly or campy in any way. Mel Gibson is at his finest at a time when he still wasn't quite the stereotypical screen action hero that the LETHAL WEAPON franchise would ultimately turn him into. It's visually striking, particularly the vast openness and isolation of the desert roads implying a frightening vision of what our world once was and how it doesn't exist anymore. I've always personally believed that humans are vicious animals at heart. George Miller's screen future only aids to strengthen that conviction. If we're so open to killing each other to survive, then fuel seems just as valid a reason as any other. Want proof? In the days following Super Storm Sandy in October 2012, I heard news stories of people getting into violent conflicts with each other over gas lines and the shortage we experienced. I believe I even said to someone, "Looks like The Road Warrior is starting now!"
Finally, I briefly mentioned FURY ROAD earlier and I'd like to touch upon that one for another moment. Simply put, I don't get it! I tried to watch the DVD and I didn't get past the first thirty minutes because I simply could not see anything in the story or the action that I hadn't already seen back in 1982. Was this a remake, a sequel, or simply recycled material by the same director of the entire franchise? Well, I must have been the only one with such a scrutinizing and critical attitude because the rest of the world chose to embrace this film with open arms and it was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture of 2015. Well, the world can have it! I'll take MAD MAX and THE ROAD WARRIOR and leave it at that!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Max: "Two days ago, I saw a vehicle that'd haul that tanker. You wanna to get outta here? You talk to me."
Thursday, June 2, 2016
(July 2002, U.S.)
One of the interesting things about the career of Tom Hanks is that he's always played a good guy. Yes, from SPLASH (1984) to FORREST GUMP (1994) to last year's BRIDGE OF SPIES (2015), Hanks has always been the guy you could count on. Hell, even when he was playing a horny and tasteless asshole in BACHELOR PARTY (1984), his heart was always in the right place. So it's all the more intriguing when he finally plays a man like Michael Sullivan in ROAD TO PERDITION (based on a graphic novel), an enforcer for the Illinois Irish mob, run by boss John Rooney (played by Paul Newman in his final live action theatrical feature) during the Great Depression. And yet, despite this character of violence and murder, Hanks still manages to put his heart in the right place. Sullivan is a cold-blooded killer, but displays strong evidence of his loyalty and love toward his organization and his wife and two boys. Love for family is what drives Sullivan throughout the film as he's forced to go on the run in order to protect his oldest son Michael Jr. from the very people he's devoted his life and loyalty to.
Having grown up fatherless, Sullivan was raised by Rooney, who appears to love him more than his own biological son, the very unstable Connor (played by a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig). When Michael Jr. decides to hide in the back of his father's car one night in order to satisfy his curiosity as to what his father really does for a living, he unwillingly witnesses his father gunning down a group of men in a warehouse. Despite Sullivan swearing his son to secrecy and Rooney pressuring Connor to apologize for the reckless action, Connor murders Sullivan's wife and younger son, regardless. Rather than be ambushed in a related murder attempt, Sullivan escapes and flees with his oldest surviving son.
And so, we basically have a film that is part mob movie keeping with the sensible tradition of THE GODFATHER in both it's photography and its characters and the other part...well, dare I say road movie. While on the run to join the safety of a relative, Sullivan and his son come to know each other for the first time and find the opportunity to strengthen their relationship in the wake of tragedy. Although his father's "profession" is now out in the open, Michael Jr. doesn't seem all that disturbed by it. He learns to drive the family car and even acts as getaway driver when Sullivan robs several Chicago banks of the mob's laundered money that's being stored there. Unlike his father, though, Michael Jr. doesn't possess the cold-bloodedness to use a gun when necessary, even at the very end. Rooney's enforcers are practically an easy target for Sullivan because he appears to be all the wiser to their thoughts and their next moves. The true danger and cat-and-mouse tactics the two of them face is a crime scene photographer who moonlights as a paid assassin (played by Jude Law). He's a seemingly simple, if not goofy kind of man, whose plain looks and receding hairline are only a front for a sick killer who appreciates the sight and color of blood.
By the time ROAD TO PERDITION has concluded, nearly everyone we've come to know in the film is dead. Except Michael Jr., of course. His life and his future have been the entire reason we've traveled the road with him and his father. Still, we've (hopefully) come to understand that a man like Michael Sullivan, mob killer or not, is still a man with a soul...and when he's played by such a good guy like Tom Hanks, it makes it all the more easy. Unlike Sam Mendes' previous film AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999), family takes on a whole different meaning here. The film explores father-son relationships, not just between Michael Sullivan and his son, but between Sullivan and Rooney, as well as Rooney and Connor. Sullivan idolizes and fears Rooney at the same time. Connor has none of Sullivan's moral and redeeming qualities, and Rooney becomes conflicted about whom he should protect when trouble starts. Connor, being insanely jealous of his own father's relationship with Sullivan, is driven to anger and murderous actions, ultimately causing the unfortunate domino effect that destroys everyone's lives. As a crime thriller, it places violence in all the right and predictable places, but also plays around with artistic visuals during times of violence, as well. At the moment Sullivan finally takes his revenge against Rooney and his men, the shootings are filmed to the background score of only soft music while we witness a hard rain storm in progress, the water seemingly meant to serve as a cinematic theme of, perhaps, life and death...
Tom Hanks, being what he is and always shall be, excels in nearly every role he plays. But it's truly Paul Newman that I shall remember best in this film. A gentle and touching big screen swan song for a man who had such a distinguished career. I still miss him.
Favorite line or dialogue:
John Rooney (realizing that Michael Sullivan is about to kill him): "I'm glad it's you."