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
Writers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen suffered writer's block while writing Miller's Crossing (1990). They took a three week break and wrote Barton Fink (1991) a film about a writer with writer's block. The name of Tom Regan's residence is "The Barton Arms". In one of the newspapers an article reads 'Seven Dead in Hotel Fire,' another reference to Barton Fink. 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 »
this movie is splendid, magnificent, unique: don't miss it
In my opinion, "Miller's crossing" is by far the top work of the Coen brothers, and one of the best movies in the history of cinema. The huge Coens' talent being now fully recognized, I hope that this masterpiece will get the credit it deserves.
The plot deals with the war between Irish and Italian gangsters, caused by the Jewish crook Bernie (the Coens like to joke with the rivalry of different ethnic groups). The crook's affectionate sister Verna is the mistress of Leo O' Bannion, the boss of the Irish gang, who consequently opposes to have him killed by the Italians. But Tom Reagan, the old mate and factotum of O' Bannion, has different plans... The story is extremely interesting, exciting, entertaining. There are no flaws in the development of the plot, despite its complications (a homage to the intricate classic film-noirs of the Golden Age). The script is sharp, cynical, sarcastic, full of memorable lines and of black sense of humor, with many delightful subtleties: the celebrated Coens' wit at its best. The photography is magnificent and very original. The music is great. The action scenes are superbly filmed: violence explodes suddenly and unexpectedly. The finale is perfect and splendidly crowns the movie.
Tom Reagan, played by Gabriel Byrne, is one of the most memorable characters I have seen on the screen. A gangster who tries to use intelligence instead of violence (with alternate success), following a peculiar moral code. Cynical but devoted to friendship. A systematic liar, but capable of generosity. Despite his skills, he is not ambitious, he prefer to be subject to a big-shot. And then, with all his smartness, he strangely chooses to destroy himself with alcohol and gambling. A magnificent psychological design. With this sober, brilliant, subtle performance, worth of a Bogart in great shape, Byrne just shows that he is the best actor in the world (my opinion, of course).
The aged Irish boss O' Bannion - Albert Finney is the opposite of Reagan: naive, sometimes dumb, with a strong love and childish attachment for his girl-friend, he is confident only in his own charisma and in brutal force. Speaking of brutal force, he will show in a gun-fight that he's still the number one, in spite of years passing (incidentally: this is one of the best action scenes I've ever seen).
Also the other characters are shaped with outstanding intelligence and care, from the main ones (Bernie, his sister, the Italian boss, his right-hand Dane) to the last of the thugs. The whole cast is fantastic: Finney, Turturro, Marcia Gay Hayden, Polito, Freeman and all the other excellent supporting actors. A special mention for the scaring gangster Eddie Dane - J.E. Freeman: he really makes you shriver. Turturro is a bit histrionic for my taste, but this is his style of acting, suited for the role of the crook, mean and coward, but cunning and dangerous as a snake.
To summarize, in "Miller's Crossing" fun, drama, action, suspense, mystery are masterly blended with deeper themes such as love, friendship and human loneliness. This movie is splendid, magnificent, unique, don't miss it.
105 of 129 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?