Mendes and Self have made but slight alterations to the novel. During a nasty shootout with Nitti's accountant and others, Collins' little boy originally shot and killed an assassin, further burdening his father with guilt. The filmmaker never puts little Michael in such a position; he's to be kept pure, untarnished by his old man's dirty work till the end. Hoechlin, whose narration at the beginning hints at what's to come, plays the lad perfectly as an innocent beyond reproach, as someone forced into action only when it's inevitable and when it's too late. Self has also added a vile assassin not found in the book: Maguire (Jude Law), a crime photographer who shoots his subjects well before he loads the film. Law, his whole body reeking of rot, is Michael without the guilt or the rationale -- a man who kills for thrills.
It's tempting to celebrate Road to Perditionfor being a smart, emotional film released during the season of the stupid and sunburned. It's tempting to embrace it for what it's not, rather than for what it is. But this movie would be worth feting in any season. It's wrenching but never manipulative, stoic but never dull, exhausting but never wearying. Road to Perditionstrikes a haunting note: Fathers and sons can also become, for better or worse, blood brothers.