The title promises the theatrics of Biblical retribution; the congress of Oscar annointees ensures middlebrow appeal; the summer release date signals reverse-prestige marketing and the inevitable mass media genuflection. If little else, Sam Mendes' Road to Perdition isn't shy about its sprawling, commercial ambition. Strange, then, that as a work of art, its overwhelming tone is one of muted feeling, of passion repressed, and of tears withheld. A story about fathers and sons and the sins they commit, the movie purports to be a solemn affair. Its depiction of '30s gangland Chicago is both beautiful and sickly, like a consumptive courtesan on her deathbed, only here the illness is Oedipal anxiety.
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