The Road to Perdition
dir. Sam Mendes
Opens Fri July 12
Various Theaters

Patience is a lost virtue, at least in regards to le cinema American. And while I'm certainly not the first hack to bemoan Hollywood's rapid cut obsession, it is my theory (absolutely unconfirmable, due to a lack of hard evidence) that this speedy obsession has less to do with residual effects of MTV or the dwindling attention span of the unwashed masses, than it does Hollywood's inability to tell a quality story. In short, the art of the yarn has been forgotten by the major studios.

Exceptions, of course, can be made--not all Hollywood films blind their audiences with quickened cutting in an attempt to cover faulty storytelling. Case in point: Road to Perdition, the new film from Sam Mendes, the director of American Beauty.

Starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jude Law--a ridiculously stellar ensemble if there ever was one--Road to Perdition tells a rather simple tale, and it tells it nearly perfectly. Said tale, boiled-down for easy consumption: A hit man (Tom Hanks) sees his family slaughtered, save for his oldest son. Father and son hit the road to exact revenge. Bloodshed and bonding ensues.

If most revenge flicks fail, it is due to a near-orgasmic series of slaughters. The standard equation seems to be this: Hero is betrayed. Hero recovers from betrayal and sets out to exact payback. Paybacks increase in grisliness (causing audience to whoop louder after each battle). Final payback is committed, usually in the most obscene of fashions. Fin. This standard equation can be applied to nearly every revenge film, from the better (Mel Gibson's Payback) to the absolute worst (I Spit on Your Grave).

Road to Perdition, however, transcends every revenge film currently documented within my brain. Mendes, working once again with Conrad Hall (a.k.a the Greatest Cinematographer Alive) has fashioned a heartfelt, exquisite (and as mentioned earlier, patient) revenge epic. It is, quite simply, beautifully done.