Maybe you don't
have a Gunther Toody's where you live, but you have something exactly
like it. Gunther Toody's is a chain of faux-50s diners with lots
of chrome and vinyl and the kind of music from the way-back machine
that reminds you some pop music always sucked. They've got crazy
crap on the walls, part of a Chevy sticking through the wall, and
gum-snapping waitresses. It's the kind of place that Fonzie would
drop his jeans, raise his leather jacket and shit on.
I avoid the
place like getting free dental work done at the prison's vocational
school because I find that phony horeseshit about as appealing as
having an inmate grinding the gum down to bone because you look
like a narc. But, in Arvada, Gunther Toody's is like the fucking
cops: when you don't go to them, they come to you.
Last night the
Tavern was set upon by greasy, overstuffed waitresses like locusts
to the harvest. Actually, there were only two, but they had the
mass and appetites of a destructive swarm. It was a passion play,
with the soft pair of plus-sized ladies followed by a short, sweaty
fry cook looking to sink his bloomin' onion in the deep fat fryer
The girls were
sort of like salt and pepper shakers. Salt was bigger, had bigger
holes in her head, but was easier to shake something out of. Pepper
was trimmer, tighter and required more work. Fry cook had a difficult
choice. It was obvious from where he slouched at the bar and where
his eyes roamed that he was a pepper man. Salt was offering it up
for free, though. All he needed to do was say, "No, you aren't
that fat" and she would have shimmied out of her funny-phrase
button-covered uniform and lubed his dick with her ruby-red lipstick.
Pepper played hard to get, though. She wasn't so terribly fat, her
face wasn't bad and she knew that he wanted her. So he sat clutching
his beer, next to the pregnant lady smoking Virginia Slims because
she didn't want her baby getting all tarry. You could see in the
flexing and furrowing of his eyebrows that he couldn't decide whether
to have some salt or to keep grinding for the pepper.
That's a lot
like the dilemma in Road to Perdition, except it's about
sons and not chubby waitresses. The main difference is I actually
gave a monkey's fart what happened to the fry cook and the characters
in the movie were too fabricated and distant.
Tom Hanks is
Mike Sullivan, the hardest-working hitman in the depression-era
Midwest. He keeps his career choice a secret from his family. That's
understandable. My father didn't tell us he wasn't really an astronaut
until I was old enough to figure out his "uniform" was
made of aluminum foil. Anyway, Hanks works for Paul Newman, a man
who was a father figure as he grew up.
On one of an
endless string of rainy nights, Hanks's curious son (Tyler Hoechlin)
learns what his father does. He sneaks into the car and sees Hanks
and Newman's son (Daniel Craig) kill a man. When Hanks and Craig
catch the boy, it sets in motion a plot to kill him. Hanks's wife
and other son are murdered by Craig, prompting him to hit the road
The mob chases
them, even assigning a greasy, wacky-in-a-somber-sense hitman/photographer
Jude Law to chase him. In a subplot that goes nowhere, Hanks and
Hoechlin bond over a series of bank heists where they are trying
to get even with the mob by stealing its money. But the real plot
is supposed to be about the kid learning his father might be a killer,
and might be amoral, but he's a great father. Not the kind of dad
who buys you a baseball glove, or barges into your school Christmas
pageant and says "I just got back from the moon. Who wants
cheese?" but a real standup guy.
Road to Perdition
is as fucking serious as a dead priest. I mean, it's got the three
elements that the Academy looks for when handing out awards: it's
competent, it's well lit, and it's like watching an instructional
video for starting your own funeral home franchise.
The theme is
choices. Newman must choose between protecting his own son, a weaselly
killer, or protecting Hanks, an honorable killer. And in choosing
his son he proves himself a coward. And Hanks must choose between
letting the transgressions go or exacting his revenge. To root for
him and understand him, you have to think that revenge is honorable.
It isn't; hiding and crapping your pants in fear is, but revenge
is obvious. I mean, really, that Hammurabi dude was kind of a jerk.
revenge is moral because it makes for a lot of dead bodies. And
those are a fuck-sight more entertaining than turning the other
cheek, especially when your cheeks are as fat with stored nuts as
And that's the
big problem with this movie. It poses itself with all its polished
hardwood floors and expensive 1930s cityscapes as a really IMPORTANT
movie with a shitload of depth. But its substance is all on the
surface and when its over you have nothing to think about but how
pretty it looked. Really, it's a pretentious load of horseshit,
like a guy in a turtleneck at the Starbucks who looks sort of smart,
so long as he doesn't start explaining "Dune" to you.
It's dark, but
really only in its lighting. Director Sam Mendes uses rainy nights
like a Colfax Avenue whore uses crack; injudiciously and to excess.
And if I saw another pasty-faced Irish kid emerge from the darkness
I was gonna start throwing punches.
The movie is
so damn desperate to let us know it's important that nobody even
needs to act. Still, child-actor Hoechlin gives Jake Lloyd a run
for his money in the bad actor derby. As far as I can tell, the
job of a kid is to make the shit screenwriters pen sound like it
would naturally come out of a kid's mouth. Hoechlin doesn't; he
just looks like a kid being told what to do. The adults share a
single emotion, that of being worried or constipated, or being worried
about their constipation, and they tense their jaws a lot. Hanks
lets his stubble do the acting for him. Anyway, it's the sort of
movie where acting isn't necessary. They're just supposed to look
like more nice old-timey furniture.
It's an empty
experience. Sure it looks like something, but under the pretty packaging
it's just like what the greasy Gunther Toody's fry cook got. I got
nothing, and the fry cook walked out alone, left to go home and
masturbate when he could have gone home with the salt and boned
her while thinking about the pepper.
for Road to Perdition.
to tell Filthy Something?