Video / DVD: New releases
'Perdition' is a road less traveled
By PHILIP BOOTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 27, 2003
Road to Perdition (R)
Tom Hanks plays hit man Michael Sullivan in Road to Perdition.
The journey to Oscar attention was rocky but not impassable for this somber, violent, beautifully photographed period piece, which grabbed admiring reviews upon its release last July but faltered at the box office.
Sam Mendes' followup to American Beauty nevertheless scored a handful of nominations, honoring Paul Newman (best supporting actor) for his performance as an aging, coldly calculating Irish crime boss, and the late cinematographer Conrad L. Hall for his superb work capturing the small towns and big cities of the Depression-era Midwest.
Tom Hanks offers a deceptively complex turn as Michael Sullivan, a taciturn, accomplished hit man, known as the Angel of Death, initially as loyal to his crime family as he is to his own flesh and blood. Sullivan takes to the road with his 12-year-old son, Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), in the wake of an unspeakable family tragedy, carefully working out plans for revenge and casually committing crimes along the way.
The cast also includes Jude Law as a creepy crime photographer who moonlights as a killer, Stanley Tucci as one of Al Capone's henchmen and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sullivan's wife.
Rent it if you enjoy: Hanks, Newman, period crime stories.
Knockaround Guys (R)
Mobsters, good, bad and bumbling, are everywhere in a movie best appreciated for a particular kind of guilty pleasure: It's lots of fun watching, and listening to, typically over-the-top Dennis Hopper and scary John Malkovich attempt to wrap their mouths around Italian-American accents and Mob lingo.
Knockaround Guys, produced by Lawrence Bender (Quentin Tarantino's right-hand man) is otherwise a derivative throwaway, a compendium of familiar riffs -- father-son conflict, loyalty, sudden violence -- that have been explored to greater effect in other movies. Maybe that's why the film, made by writers/directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien, sat on the shelf for nearly two years before its release.
Barry Pepper is Matty, a reluctant tough guy, assigned by his dad to transfer a bag of $100 bills to an interested party in Spokane, Wash. The stash inadvertently falls into the hands of a pair of teenage stoners in Wibaux, Mont., and Matty and his pals (Seth Green, Andrew Davoli and a pre-stardom Vin Diesel) descend on the small town. There, they toy with the sheriff (Tom Noonan) and prepare for a final, bloody showdown. Seen it. Done it.
DVD extras: A commentary by the filmmakers; deleted scenes.
Rent it if you enjoy: Tarantino knock-offs.
The Tuxedo (PG-13)
[Photo: DreamWorks Pictures]
Jackie Chan adds flair to The Tuxedo.
Jackie Chan's mad martial-arts skills and loveable, happy-go-lucky persona are uncomfortably married to the talents of former Party of Five cutie Jennifer Love Hewitt for a comic action movie that's less than the sum of its parts. Nice try, but there's no chemistry between the two leads.
Chan plays Jimmy Tong, a cabdriver turned chauffeur for undercover super agent Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs). When an explosion puts Devlin in the hospital, the clumsy Tong promptly becomes as suave and agile as his employer. The secret: A high-tech tux allowing its wearer to perform any number of heroic and romantic duties with the click of a switch. With one click, a cigarette-lighting reflex takes over. Another click, and Tong is suddenly a remarkably flexible fighter.
Chan's amazing moves and good-guy charisma go a long way toward making The Tuxedo passable despite its limitations in the areas of script and acting. But shame on first-time director Kevin Donovan for hiring the excellent Peter Stormare for such a negligible role. And double shame, for asking James Brown to be in his movie, but having Chan do the singer's dance moves.
DVD extras: An HBO special; a blooper reel; deleted scenes.
Rent it if you enjoy: Jackie Chan movies; secret-agent flicks.
Tuck Everlasting (PG)
[Photo: Walt Disney Pictures]
Alexis Bledel plays Winnie Foster and Jonathan Jackson plays Jesse Tuck, young lovers in Tuck Everlasting.
Jay Russell, director of the likable My Dog Skip (2000), returns with a fable about a family given earthly immortality after drinking from a magical spring. The Tucks (Jonathan Jackson, Sissy Spacek, William Hurt and Scott Bairstow) keep their gift, a blessing and a curse, under wraps. Then, in 1914, upper-class girl Winnie (Alexis Bledel) discovers their secret and falls in love with young Jesse (Jackson). Also stars Ben Kingsley, Amy Irving and Elisabeth Shue.
DVD extras: A commentary by director Jay Russell and several cast members; a second commentary by Russell and screenwriter James Hart; a short feature on the novel's author, Natalie Babbit; additional features.
Rent it if you enjoy: Fairy tales; children's fare.
The title character (Tom Tryon) of Otto Preminger's The Cardinal (1963) faces off with Nazis in Austria and Ku Klux Klan night riders in Georgia, and navigates issues related to interfaith marriage, abortion and celibacy. Tryon's performance, and that of John Huston as a cantankerous archbishop, are notable, as is the handsome cinematography, but Preminger's would-be epic tale comes off as forced and, at 178 minutes, overlong. The double-DVD set includes a two-hour 1991 exploration of Preminger's 50-year career, as well as a vintage making-of-the-movie piece.
Also newly available on DVD is Nicholas Ray's King of Kings (1961), an ambitious telling of the life of Christ, narrated by Orson Welles, with Jeffrey Hunter as a blue-eyed soulful messiah and Siobhan McKenna as a Mary with a heavy Irish accent; and Barbet Schroeder's La Vallee (1972), a tale of hippies seeking spiritual and sexual fulfillment in the New Guinea rainforest, scored by Pink Floyd.
A special two-DVD set from the Criterion Collection packages three noir films based on Ernest Hemingway's short story The Killers with extras galore. The first version, made in 1946, starred Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner. Russian legend Andrei Tarkovsky made a 19-minute short in 1956. Don Siegel, in 1964, directed an adaptation that was made for television, but pulled after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
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