Tom Reagan (played by Gabriel Byrne) is the right-hand man, and chief adviser, to a mob boss, Leo (Albert Finney). Trouble is brewing between Leo and another mob boss, Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito), over the activities of a bookie, Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) and Leo and Tom are at odds on how to deal with it. Meanwhile, Tom is in a secret relationship with Leo's girlfriend, Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), who happens to be the sister of Bernie. In trying to resolve the issue, Tom is cast out from Leo's camp and ultimately finds himself stuck in the middle between several deadly, unforgiving parties. Written by
Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld told the Coen brothers that the forest scenes should be shot during overcast days only. The brothers did not want to delay the filming based on the weather, but as luck would have it, on all but one of the scheduled days, it was overcast anyway. Sonnenfeld further muted the colors by using Fuji film instead of Kodak for the forest scenes. In one scene, when the Dane, Tom, Frankie and Tic-Tac are in the woods at Miller's Crossing, some sunlight can be seen faintly and out of focus in the background. 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 »
One of the great undiscovered gems of recent movie history. In my opinion, Miller's crossing is easily the best of the Coen brothers' films, and one of the true classics of American cinema.
On the surface, the story of warring gangsters in 1920's America is one that has been told many times before. But never before has it been handled with such artistry and precision. The (rather violent) action scenes keep the movie going along at a brisk pace, and the camera work is every bit the equal of "Fargo".
I became a lifelong Gabriel Byrne fan as a result of this movie, despite his best efforts to disappoint me since. Byrne's Tom Reagan is a compellingly amoral character, who takes more unchallenged beatings than perhaps anyone in film history. Men beat him up. Women beat him up. Collection men, bookies, gangsters, and even his boss gives him a terrible thrashing, and he hardly lifts a finger in opposition (with one notably humorous exception).
Albert Finney is tremendous as Leo, the local crime boss. His "Danny Boy" scene should go down in film history as one of the greatest pieces ever filmed. Jon Polito is at once absurdly funny and threateningly psychotic as Johnny Caspar, Leo's rival in the turf war. J.E. Freeman, John Turturro, and Marcia Gay Harden all lend strong support in a cast that was assembled and performs to near perfection.
I will never understand why this film has not received more recognition and acclaim. As an example of the modern style of Film Noir, it has no equals ("The Usual Suspects" would rate a close second). Among gangster films, only "The Godfather" can compete, and "Miller's Crossing" features superior pacing and dialog, although it lacks "The Godfather's" epic proportions. Perhaps someday this film will receive, like "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Touch of Evil", the belated accolades it so richly deserves.
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