Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

Jeff's Movie Recommendations

Road to Perdition
Rating: 10 Thompson Machine Guns out of Ten.

At times this movie reminds me a bit of the Coen brothers' Miller's Crossing, one of my favorite gangster movies of all time (Remember how the old man could handle a Thompson to the tune of "Danny Boy"?). But it is substantially different in story and impact. (Another favorite gangster movie of mine is Once Upon a Time in America.) Smoke Signals, produced by Native Americans a few years ago, is a top quality flick dealing with fathers and sons, too. It never got the attention and recognition it deserved. The ending is especially moving: How do we forgive our fathers? If you haven't seen it yet, I suggest you rent it soon.

Road to Perdition starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, and Jude Law is based upon the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner. I saw it by myself last Saturday, August 3, 2002, in Columbia Maryland, a matinee.

"Perdition means hell. Webster's defines it as: "1. complete and irreparable loss; ruin. 2. in theology, (a) the loss of the soul or of hope for salvation; damnation; (b) the place or condition of damnation; hell. 'If we reject the truth, we seal our own perdition. -- J.M. Mason. 3. loss. [Obs.] 4. the cause of ruin or destruction. [Obs]."

R2P is a deeply moving story about fathers and sons: Hanks and his son; Hanks and his surrogate father Newman; Newman and his "real" son. (The New Yorker review was way off base, pathetic.) The ending was especially powerful. I'll describe an interesting encounter I had right after the movie.

I sat through the credits, which I only do when I am touched by a movie. Eventually I got up and headed for the bathroom as I had to take a leak so badly my back teeth were floating. I caught a younger person in the corner of my eye, following me into the bathroom. We both took a piss and he waited for me as I washed my hands to leave. Then, he stopped me as I was leaving and looked at me quite seriously. He seemed about 15 or 16 years old. "Did you see Road to Perdition," he asked me. "Yes," I said. We both looked at one another. He said, "it was a good movie." I looked at him carefully and could see he was crying "inside." "Are you crying," I asked. He was quiet and looking down. "I didn't expect it," he said, struggling with tears. "I didn't expect it." We walked out through the lobby together silently, he seemed to cling on to me a bit, which was OK with me. In the middle of the lobby I said to him: "You know which part I really liked? It was in the end, when the boy was talking and he was saying that people asked him whether his father was good or bad. And then he said "he was my father." The boy looked at me carefully and nodded. He seemed too emotional to talk. We just looked at one another and then I said, "you take care of yourself." He said "OK." And we parted.