A professional killer, searching for the gunman who murdered his wife and child. A powerful robber baron, forced to make a choice of biblical proportions. A young boy, learning the true meaning of violence at his father's knee. Based on Max Allan Collins' graphic novel, Sam Mendes' majestic follow-up to AMERICAN BEAUTY has all the elements of a classic Western, done up in the somber, near-religious trappings of a Depression-era gangster film. Rock Island, Illinois, 1931. The Sullivans appear to be an ordinary family, though 12-year-old Michael (Tyler Hoechlin) isn't sure what his father (Tom Hanks) does for a living. He knows he works for John Rooney (Paul Newman), the town patriarch and Capone-connected racketeer who virtually raised the elder Sullivan, and he knows that the "missions" on which Rooney sends his father are dangerous — that's why dad carries a gun, like the Lone Ranger. One night Michael hides in the back seat when Sullivan and Rooney's son, Connor (Daniel Craig), head out on a job. Michael watches in horror as Connor impulsively opens fire on one of Rooney's best men (Ciaran Hinds), forcing Sullivan to massacre everyone else in the room. Connor spots Michael, and though the boy swears not to tell, it's not enough; Connor wants to put things right and hurt the man who usurped his rightful place in his father's heart. Sullivan survives a trap Connor rigged to have him killed, but returns home to find his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and younger son (Liam Aiken) shot to death. The surviving Sullivans abandon their home and embark on a bloody, six-week odyssey across the dusty plains of the Midwest, eluding a vicious hit man (a truly twisted Jude Law) while searching for Connor and forcing the genuinely sorrowful Rooney into sacrificing his one true son. Collins rooted his story in legendary local figure John Looney, the notorious Quad City newspaperman/gangster, but modeled the father/son relationship bound by blood and violence on Kazuo Koike's long running ronin manga Lone Wolf and Cub. (Production designer Dennis Gassner and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall seem to have drawn much of their inspiration from the stark, lonely compositions of Edward Hopper.) This dark, almost mythic heart is what makes the film such an emotionally rich experience. It's ultimately not just about damnation, salvation and America's violent legacy, but the stuff of the great gangster films from SCARFACE to WHITE HEAT and THE GODFATHER: family.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: R
- Review: A professional killer, searching for the gunman who murdered his wife and child. A powerful robber baron, forced to make a choice of biblical proportions. A young boy, learning the true meaning of violence at his father's knee. Based on Max Allan Collins'… (more)