A highly styled 'genre' film which can perhaps be seen as a pastiche of all gangster movies. Tom Reagan is the laconic anti-hero of this amoral tale which is also, paradoxically, a look at morals within the criminal underworld of the 1930s. Two rival gangs vie for control of a city where the police are pawns, and the periodic busts of illicit drinking establishments are no more than a way for one gang to get back at the other. Black humour and shocking violence compete for screen time as we question whether or not Tom, right-hand man of the Irish mob leader, really has a heart. Written by
The city where the story takes place is never named directly in the film. However, there is a clue late in the film which points to the New York City area: Tom tells Verna to leave town and go to "the Palisades" until everything blows over. The Palisades is stretch of rocky cliffs of Bergen County in Northern New Jersey and Rockland County of New York State. See more »
Caspar repeatedly refers to Bernie as "the Schmatte" - Yiddish slang for "a worthless person". Bernie is Jewish, but an Italian gangster would never use a Yiddish word to refer to him. He would use an Italian epithet, instead. See more »
Hey, Tic-Tac! You ever notice how the snappy dialogue dries up once a guy starts soiling his union suit?
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This has got to be, hands down, one of the best gangster films ever made, certainly in the last 20 years or so. Better even than Reservoir Dogs, I'd say...which is a great film too, but just not nearly the same caliber as this.
In a nutshell, the whole movie is about loyalty, and the affect it has on Tom Reagan, as well as everyone else around him. Tom is the central character in this story, and we basically get to experience this movie in his shoes (or wearing his hat, which would be a more appropriate analogy, and you'll understand why I say this after watching the film). In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of scenes that Tom Reagan (played masterfully by Gabriel Byrne) does NOT appear in.
I won't go into great detail, because the story is full of subtleties...things that you won't notice even after seeing the movie several times. I think that's why I put it so high in my mind as a work of cinematic art. There has ALWAYS been something new that I discovered upon each viewing that I didn't see before, so the complexities of the story make it vastly more entertaining that, say, Titanic or some other Hollywood schlock that's being peddled in theaters. Which is probably why this film did poorly when it was first released, I didn't even see it until it came out on cable a year later.
The script is truly marvelous, and the snappy dialog hearkens back to the good old days of gangster films from the 30s with great actors such as James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Bogart. In fact, go get the Warner Bros. Gangster Classics Box set before you see this film...it'll give you a better appreciation of this film, in many different ways (the wise-cracks, the over-the-top gun battles, etc.). The only way the Coen Brothers could pay greater homage to the old gangster classics would have been to have filmed Miller's Crossing in black and white...which they didn't need to do anyway, this film just can't be beat in it's set design and imagery.
Oddly enough, there is almost no gratuitous sex in this mildly R-rated film...it's all implied, which is a nice touch given the way most R-rated films just give in to rampant sex and violence, just for the sake of being able to do it. Even the violence (which some posts have alluded to as excessive) just doesn't even compare with what most folks see on screen today...but that just it, the Coen Brothers use sex and violence in a subtle way that enhances (not detracts) from the film. We know more about what people feel about each other rather than just get to see to sweaty bodies going at it in bed. Don't get me wrong, I think sex and violence in adult films is not a bad thing...I just hate it when filmmakers just throw it in as a way of pleasing the crowd, especially when they don't show the consequences of what sex and violence can bring about in our society.
Anyway, I could go on and on...go BUY (not rent) this film, it'll be the best clearance-rack DVD you'll ever own!
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