Road to Perdition

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"There is only one guarantee -- none of us will see heaven."

John Rooney

A 2002 film, directed by Sam Mendes, based on a comic of the same name (itself inspired by the manga Lone Wolf and Cub). Mobster Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), and his son who followed him to work, witness the mob boss (Paul Newman)'s son Connor (Daniel Craig) shoot a fellow employee (Ciaran Hinds) for embezzling The Syndicate.

Connor tries to kill the witnesses off, but botches the job and ends up killing Mike's wife and younger son. Expecting revenge, the mob takes out a Contract on the Hitman and Mike and Peter go on the run, pursued by a chillingly psychopathic assassin, Maguire (Jude Law).

The film deals largely with father-and-son relationships -- both the protagonists and the villain of the movie have deep issues with paternal favoritism and respect. Whereas Connor forces his father to try to protect him at the cost of a man he clearly loves as a son, Michael becomes determined that his only surviving child will not become like him.

Not to be confused with any other Road To movies.

Tropes used in Road to Perdition include:

Michael Sullivan: He murdered Annie and Peter!
John Rooney: There are only murderers in this room! Michael! Open your eyes! This is the life we chose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee - none of us will see heaven.
Michael Sullivan: Michael could.
John Rooney: Then do everything that you can to see that that happens.

  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: Connor's execution in the bath. Water preceding death is a major theme.
  • Canon Foreigner: If you've only seen the movie, you might be surprised to learn that Maguire is nowhere to be found in the source material.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The couple on the farm, who Peter goes to live with at the end.
    • Subverted in the comic -- Michael arrives to find them both dead, and immediately gets shot as well.
  • The Collector of the Strange: Maguire has a collection of photographs of corpses, at least some of which are his own handiwork.
  • Composite Character: The random mooks from the comic were all combined into a brand new character for the movie: Maguire.
  • Contract on the Hitman
  • Dead Little Sister: Sullivan's wife and younger son.
  • Death by Adaptation: John Rooney dies, while John Looney lives.
  • Depth Deception: Michael Jr. approaches the front door of his house, seeing Connor approaching after he has killed his mother and brother, and freezes when Connor appears to stare directly at him through the door's window, but it turns out Connor was actually looking at his own reflection. After Michael realizes this, he has time to hide before Connor leaves the house.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The silent gunfight.
  • Dragon Their Feet: After the protagonist kills the entire Rooney crime family, Psycho For Hire Maguire still shows up at the end and kills him, despite the fact the people who were paying Maguire were already all dead.
  • Epunymous Title: Michael is on the way to irrevocably dooming his soul to hell... but he's also driving to a town called Perdition.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Maguire's plot-irrelevant crime scene photography, showing him as an entirely amoral ice-cold killer when he finishes off the Not Quite Dead victim.
    • There's also Rance whining to the hotel staff about his boiled egg.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids
  • Film Noir
  • Foreshadowing: Much like oranges in The Godfather, water precedes every major death scene (bath, rain, lake, etc).
  • Historical Domain Character: Frank Nitti, the entirely unseen Al Capone.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Michael, especially in the comic.
  • The Irish Mob
  • Kill'Em All: Every named non-historical character dies except Michael the younger (and John Looney in the comic).
  • Moral Event Horizon: This is almost the exact meaning of "perdition" - being doomed to go to hell once and for all, with no chance of salvation.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Connor tries to use a cynical facade to hide his jealousy and childishness. It doesn't work.
  • Parental Favouritism: Something of a theme.
    • Peter is originally The Unfavourite, because "you were more like me".
    • In the film, John Rooney clearly favors Michael over his own son, Connor, which gives Connor a serious complex and only makes him even more of a screw-up. When called upon to choose between them, however, John chooses blood.
  • Please Shoot the Messenger: Sullivan first discovers the plot against him when a message he delivers for Rooney tells the recipient to kill him.
  • Psycho for Hire: Maguire. Hey, that rhymes.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Connor.

Connor Rooney: I can look after myself.
Frank Nitti: No, you can't! This is the point. You're a big baby who doesn't know his thumb from his dick!


Because it's all so fuckin' hysterical...

  • Rule of Symbolism: Mendes deliberately wrote every death to be near or surrounded by water to demonstrate the commonness (and uncontrollability) of death in the mobster's lives.
  • Spell My Name with an "S":
    • The Looney Family from the comic became the Rooney family for the movie. Oddly, The former surname was more historically accurate.
    • Likewise the O'Sullivans were called the Sullivans in the movie.
  • Stepford Smiler: Connor, who smiles when he's feeling shamed by his father's preference for Michael. When asked why he does this, his deadpans, "Because it's all so fucking hysterical."
  • Supporting Protagonist: Michael Jr.
  • Sweet Tooth: Maguire pouring about half a cup of sugar into his coffee. And, well, look what it does to his teeth...
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill:
    • In the movie, Sullivan's final act is shooting Jude Law so that his son will be able to go through life having never killed anyone. If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Me, if you will.
    • In the comic, however, Michael Jr. averts this; killing at least two of the mooks that come after them.
  • Ultimate Evil: Capone is deliberately kept off-camera to evoke a greater sense of mystery. A scene with him was filmed, but was left out of the final cut, despite the director admitting he loved the performance.
  • Uriah Gambit: Connor sets up Sullivan to be killed this way.
  • Vertigo Effect: Jude Law's character first appears walking toward the camera underneath an L track. It takes about thirty-plus seconds of screen time, whereas the typical Vertigo shot is much more fast-moving.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Connor Rooney in the movie. In the comic, however, none of his angst (nor his father's favoritism towards Michael Sr.) is even hinted at (his motives for doing what he does are out of blood-lust and paranoia rather than out of envy).
  • The Windy City
  • You Remind Me of X: An inversion of the regular usage, see Parental Favouritism above.
  • You Should Have Died Instead: Michael believes this is how his father feels about him. He is wrong.