Michael Sullivan (Hanks) is an enforcer for Chicago mob boss John Rooney (Newman), who’s like a surrogate father to him. Meanwhile Rooney’s biological son Connor (Craig) seethes with jealousy at their closeness. When the unhinged Connor murders Sullivan’s wife (Leigh) and young son, Sullivan vows revenge, but knows that the family will protect its own blood. Rooney reluctantly sends a hit-man (Law) after Sullivan, whose only desire seems to be that his eldest son Michael Jr. (Hoechlin) escape this life of killing.
Mendes’ second film explores father/son themes that feel almost biblical in proportion. Adapted from a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, the director injects a film noir ambiance into the Depression era setting; most every frame is filled with darkness, rain or shadow. Cinematographer Conrad Hall won a posthumous Oscar for his stunning work here. The impact of the violence, kept mostly off-screen, comes from the effect it has on the young boy witnessing it. This mythic tale of bloodlust is a moody, masterful addition to the gangster canon.