8:00 PM, 8th March, 2003
Most fathers probably look forward to the first time their son asks them what they do for a living. If the answer was 'I kill people', they might look at it differently. Not only does Michael Sullivan have to face this predicament, but he soon finds that his son's life is in danger as well as his own. With American Beauty, English director Sam Mendes demonstrated that comedies can have a heart and a brain. Here, he shows us that thrillers can have the same. You may have already guessed a lot of what happens through the movie, but that doesn't matter. We were told what was going to happen at the start of American Beauty, but that didn't diminish our sense of wonder. Road To Perdition makes no attempt to constantly fool its audience with contrivance upon contrivance. What's important is not what happens, but why it happens, how the characters react and how their reactions affect what happens next. I just wish more movies had their priorities sorted similarly.
10:00 PM, 8th March, 2003
Leon (Jean Reno) is New York's top assassin ('cleaner'). When his neighbours are murdered by some unconventional DEA agents (led by the unconventional Gary Oldman), he becomes the unwilling guardian of their surviving daughter, Mathilda (Natalie Portman). Mathilda demands that Leon teach her to 'clean', vowing revenge against those responsible for the death of her family. Things become complicated for Leon when looking after Mathilda becomes more than just buying an extra carton of milk.
As an action-movie fan, I really enjoyed this film on a few levels, but it's probably not everyone's cup of tea. Portman gives one of her most convincing performances (although we are comparing with Star Wars here). Reno is a superb action actor whom we don't see enough in English-language films. The action sequences are fast-paced and bloody, but don't suffer from the 'comic violence' cop-out seen in a lot of movies. Most negative reviews seem to come from people who, in my opinion, are taking the film too seriously ((mdash)) no matter how good or bad the story, remember that it's still just an action movie, and you will probably enjoy it.