Paul Newman received his ninth and final acting Oscar nomination for portraying John Rooney in Road to Perdition.
Paul Newman portrays Irish gangster John Rooney. Rooney is the gangster who Sullivan works for, and it is his son Connor (Daniel Craig) who kills Michael family after Michael's son saw Connor kill a man. Newman portrays Rooney as a rather quiet old gangster who certainly is past his time of being truly deadly and dangerous man. Newman at the beginning of his performance has a genuine fatherly and grandfatherly quality.
Newman's performance is genuinely a warm old man to Sullivan and his sons. Newman does not portray this as a facade, but that Rooney does honestly care for them. There is of course an undercurrent of the gangster he is in his performance but it is not an overriding facet of Rooney. What Newman more thoroughly suggests is a once brutal gangster who with age has aged past the stage in which he can be as cold as he really needs to be in his position.
The two pivotal aspects of Newman's performance and character comes from his fatherly relationships in the film his first with John's actual son Connor. Newman interestingly portrays this as he does have a love for his son, but a love he actually wants to shake. Newman is very convincing in his portrayal of this strange conflict that John has over his son. He frankly wants to let him die as Connor is not only a screw up but a backstabber, but his natural fatherly love prevents it.
His other one is with his adopted son Michael. Rooney faces the fact that to keep his actual son alive, and his position he must kill his adopted son. Here is where Newman shows the lack of the killer edge with Rooney who frankly does not heart to go through with the murders. Newman portrays a deep sadness in Rooney showing that he is far too old for who he is, and what he must do. Rooney simply is a gangster who has lived too long
Newman is heartbreaking in his final moments where he shows Rooney reflect all he as done, and eventually accepting his fate that he knows he deserves. This is an appropriate swan song feature film performance from Newman which manages to bring a tragic human element to a character who perhaps could have been only a villain. Rooney is a bad man and Newman shows him as such but creates an honest insight into a bad man who understands exactly who he is.