Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2002 - ROAD TO PERDITION, graphic novel and film

The Road To Perdition exists in 2 forms, a graphic novel and a film directed by Sam Mendes for Steven Spielberg's production company.

The graphic novel is a grim 300 page story about a hit man working for a Midwestern crime boss who along with his son is seeking revenge for his wife's death after the crime boss's son kills her.  The graphic novel is told from the point of view of the 12 year old as the hit man goes on a robbery and killing spree to get back at the crime boss.

The comic book panels are drawn very dramatically and the story has a lot of killing in it but since the pictures are in black and white the reader is sparred looking at some lurid violent images.  There is very little dialog in the graphic novel.  It's a quick read.  Some attempt is made at characterization, but for the most part it's just a series of pictures of people getting shot in the head.  

I'm not sure what Spielberg exactly saw in this story?  Perhaps the attempt to tell a story about a father and son and cast it as an American tragedy was the appeal.

The film is certainly a very good looking production.  The director Sam Mendes was still pretty hot having won and academy award for American Beauty.  The cinematographer Conrad Hall was one of the best technicians in Hollywood, he had achieved legendary status working during the 1960's and 1970's.  Tom Hanks and Paul Newman were the big stars.  The film had major award winner slobbered all over it.

Unfortunately the basic hollowness of the story defeats the film.  The graphic novel had to be changed and expanded especially in the second half of the film. You can't have two big stars like Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in a film and not have them appear together occasionally.  New scenes were written for them to do their acting stuff which really brought nothing to the story.  Another addition in the film is to create a creepy killer, who likes to take pictures of his victims after he kills them, ho hum.

Even with all the technical and artistic ability on hand, The Road To Perdition is an empty uninvolving film.  Another disappointment from Sam "the Man" Mendes.

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