Minor spoilers, Road to Perdition
I've posted in the NYT forum my initial responses to the film. [Sorry, link didn't come through, but you can do a search under "copywright2"]. Short version: I loved the film.
Responses to shroom
: I don't know if this'll be too long for the "comments" field, so am posting it here instead. Hope that's okay.
: re. Hanks' "gravitas": where the script called for it
, I think Hanks delivered the "lighter touch": the father and child diner scene you mentioned, the driving lessons, the delightful closing line at the end of the first bank robbery ("...always trust a bank manager"), and that opening conversation in Rance's hotel ("...It's the best hotel in the district, and you are so very [pausing a beat] particular"). I wouldn't fault Hanks for its omission during the rest of the film.
Also, agreed - his character wasn't particularly menacing. But then, I don't think he was meant
to be. There's a bit of additional backstory supplied for Sullivan in the "novelisation": Sullivan had fought with courage (and been decorated) during the Great War - that's where he learnt to use a gun (and to kill people). Upon Sullivan's return from the fighting, Rooney enlisted his skills in his Rock Island operation. There's a scene where Sullivan and Michael Jr. discuss Sullivan's job, and the Sullivan uses the analogy of being a "soldier" in the Rooney organization. Somewhere else, there's a description of Sullivan as being (I'm quoting from memory, so it may not be entirely accurate, but something like), in his family-man persona, "a good man, god-fearing, decent, and quiet".
I think that all fits with his work style/character: he's dutiful, a good worker, steady, dogged. His reputation as "the Angel of Death" comes about not because he's personally
frightening or violent (he certainly wasn't itching to kill McGovern), but because of his professional role: work that he did very well indeed. Most people would have responded to him with fear and respect (as did the bouncer and owner of the club), rather than terror (as they would if he had been "menacing").
To borrow an analogy from another reviewer, Sullivan is - temperamentally - the Tom Hagen (not
Sonny) of the Rooney organization. (They're also both "adopted" by, and indebted to, the head of the clan, of course.)
Also in agreement on Jude Law, brilliant as Maguire. Now, there's "menacing" for you -- Such crazed and manic energy!