Oscar-Worthy Graphic Novel Films: Road to Perdition

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

This post is the second part of an article I was asked to write for the Houston Public Library blog. The final article will be posted some time in the near future, in its entirety, on that website.

Road to Perdition

This gripping revenge story by writer Max Allan Collins and illustrator Richard Piers Rayner was first published in 1998 by Paradox Press, an imprint of DC Comics. The film was made in 2002, directed by Sam Mendes and stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig, with a script adapted from the graphic novel by David Self.

The film was nominated for six Academy Awards at the 75th Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Paul Newman), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography (Conrad L. Hall), Best Original Score, Best Sound, and Best Sound Editing. Of those, Hall won the Oscar for cinematography.

Plot: Michael Sullivan is a respected mob enforcer for John Rooney, who treats Michael and his family as his own. When his older son Michael, Jr. witnesses his father kill a man during one of his jobs, he is sworn to secrecy. But Rooney’s son Connor, who caused the murder to happen, is determined to silence the potential witness, and murders Sullivan’s wife and younger son, and has another mobster try to kill Sullivan. Forced to run in the face of this betrayal, Sullivan takes his surviving son and embarks on a desperate quest for both survival and revenge. When Rooney refuses to give Connor up for Sullivan’s revenge, his associates dispatch an assassin to hunt down both Sullivan and the boy. Through their struggle, Sullivan and his son gradually come to understand and respect one another, eventually becoming comfortable with their similarities as well as their differences.

Differences from the graphic novel: Numerous. Some minor changes, like the streamlining of O’Sullivan’s name to just Sullivan or the changing of the Looney name to Rooney, were purely cosmetic. But there were also some substantially major differences as well, like the inclusion of Jude Law’s character, the photographer and assassin Harlen Maguire, who never existed in the original story at all. He’s an interesting addition to the story, but I’m not sure he was really necessary. In the graphic novel, O’Sullivan is known as the Angel of Death and feared in mob circles, and demonstrates this in several very violent action scenes as he takes on gangsters virtually singlehandedly. In the film, his reputation, while still respected, is significantly toned down, and there is much less action violence than in the book. One noteworthy change which made no sense was the narration, which is done by Sullivan, Jr. clearly as an adult in the graphic novel, but voiced over by the same character when he is a boy.

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