Road to Perdition is a really well done movie.
How can you really not like a movie with Tom Hanks? Especially when he is playing a dad type role. He really does that well. The entire cast do an incredible job of pulling the viewer into this 1931 gangster era world. The classic gangster themes of family and loyalty are well adhered to in this story and they even cross splendidly when Mike’s son witnesses his father and another killing people for a living. This places Mike (Tom Hanks) in an impossible position. The rules say “no witnesses” but how could he kill his own son or allow someone to do it.
Pay Attention to the Year
One has to pay attention to the year. It is very important to the story and the truth of the characters. This was a time when otherwise good men worked for crime families because they were the only ones hiring. The Great Depression ran from 1929 through 1939. 1931 was also near the end of that Grand Debacle forced on this country by a small group of religious extremists giving rise to unprecedented violent crime in America. The Grand Debacle also has another name, Prohibition. It lasted from 1920-1933. By 1931 it was obvious Prohibition was going to be repealed. Organized crime families were looking at the end of their glorious cash cow, bootleg liquor and desperately trying to branch out into other lucrative enterprises.
This “end of an era” reality pushed crime families to become even more ruthless in killing off competitors as they desperately clutched for a bigger share of the final dollars to be made. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happened February 14, 1929, just two years prior to the setting of this movie. The uproar of that action put unprecedented pressure on law enforcement to wipe these crime families out while at the same time providing them significant increases in resources to do just that. The combination of these prior events made the policy of “no witnesses” an absolute must. Families could no longer buy off all of the law enforcement tasked with taking them down.
The Premise of the Movie
Thus is the premise of Road to Perdition. A good man became a hit man for a crime family so he could feed and shelter his own family and his curious son ran afoul of the “no witnesses” policy. This good man must now do even more horrible things to save what is left of his family.
Road to Perdition definitely needs to be on your rental list if you haven’t already seen it twice.