Miller’s Crossing (1990)
Directed by Joel Coen
Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden
Tom Regan (Byrne) would like things to be simpler. His job is to advise Leo (Finney), a mob boss with a temper, who’s in the middle of a brewing conflict with another gangster. Further complicating things is Tom’s relationship with Leo’s mistress Verna (Harden). When he fails to keep their tryst under the radar he finds himself exposed to problems from both sides. Now he’s got to use both sides against one another to find his way out. He’s also contending with Verna’s brother, who is out for himself and willing to use Tom to get what he needs. Tom has to play the game just right to keep himself alive.
This is a great example of what Joel Coen can do with a story. The movie is a highly typical depiction of the gangster film genre given a major twist with Coen’s taste for harsh reality in violence. Written by Joel along with his brother Ethan, the film has great dialogue and a wonderful sense of timing. Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men) have a unique style that is never lost in this incredible film. The cast is filled with some great talent including Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden, and John Turturro.
The movie relies heavily on great performances by the talented cast to avoid becoming a bad stereotype. Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects) plays his role with a strange lack of emotion that makes his character work perfectly. This is balanced nicely by John Turturro (Barton Fink) who gives the performance of his career as the outspoken and emotional Bernie Bernbaum. Albert Finney (Tom Jones) and Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River) are also perfect for their roles. Together this cast is a great ensemble that brings this story a unique energy all of its own.
The visual work done for this movie is incredible. The camera work seems to take full advantage of the sets and the natural settings chosen for the film. Thanks to the unique use of space throughout the sets, this movie feels authentic, but also larger than life. This movie also seems to explode with color, which does wonders accentuating the era of excesses they’re portraying. This visual work goes excellently alongside the score for the film which includes some great original music as well as nicely chosen songs from the period.
Despite being what I consider a great movie, this one did not perform well in the box office. This is likely due to the unique style which stood out much more in 1990 than it would today. This movie is also incredibly graphic, utilizing the moments of violence to accent the story.
This is a must-see film for anyone who loves gangster films or any of the films of Joel and Ethan Coen. The acting is impressive and the story is captured wonderfully by great performances. This movie seems to hit all the right notes with the theme it’s working with. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.