Clean Getaway

Hit man Tom Hanks rubs out his character flaws in 'Road to Perdition'

And that's where this cunningly crafted movie really fails to jell. Because Mendes, via Maguire's gruesome hobby, has been unwinding an unnerving critique: Who is, after all, taking pictures of dead bodies? And who is pleasuring in these deaths? The film's strongest image is of a camera tripod in front of a white screen marked by blood. Those of us with the money to distance ourselves from the clawing and scratching of base survival will put up cash to see it performed before us. We are fascinated with the meanness of it, with the spatter of wasted life. Why? I don't know. Because it reminds us to feel grateful? Because it makes palatable entertainment of what goes on far enough away that we can deny our involvement in it? Mendes would implicate the audience in his protagonist's violence (as he refused to do in American Beauty). But Hanks can't convince us of his character's brutality. Or he won't.

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