Graphic, Novel

Hanks and Newman are on the bloody and brilliant Road to Perdition

Mendes and Self have made but slight alterations to the novel: During a nasty shootout with Nitti's accountant and others, Collins' little boy originally shot and killed an assassin, further burdening his father with guilt. The filmmaker never put little Michael in such a position; he's to be kept pure, untarnished by his old man's dirty work till the end. Hoechlin, whose narration at the beginning hints at what's to come, plays the lad perfectly: as an innocent beyond reproach, as someone forced into action only when it's inevitable--when it's too late. Self has also added a vile assassin not found in the book: Maguire (Jude Law), a crime photographer who shoots his subjects well before he loads the film. Law, his whole body reeking of rot, is Michael without the guilt or the rationale--a man who kills for thrills.

It's tempting to celebrate Road to Perditionfor being a smart, emotional film released during the season of the stupid and sunburned; it's tempting to embrace it for what it's not, rather than for what it is. But this movie would be worth feting in any season: It's wrenching but never manipulative, stoic but never dull, exhausting but never wearying. Road to Perditionstrikes a haunting note: Fathers and sons can also become, for better or worse, blood brothers.

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