5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Coen Brothers films
When the Coen Brothers do noir, they do it well. This film depicts a particular juncture in the history of US gangsterism, with fine characterizations and a great score by Carter Burwell.
Published 1 month ago by Siusaidh
3.0 out of 5 stars "Nobody knows anybody. Not that well."
Joel and Ethan Coen's "Miller's Crossing" teaches us that in many ways a career in crime is like a career is any other type of profession. There are codes of conduct to adhere to, customs to be observed, and ethical behavior is highly valued. However, there is one important difference - errors in judgment typically result in the loss of your life instead of the loss of...
Published on Oct. 15 2003 by Steven Y.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Coen Brothers films,
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This review is from: Miller's Crossing (DVD)When the Coen Brothers do noir, they do it well. This film depicts a particular juncture in the history of US gangsterism, with fine characterizations and a great score by Carter Burwell.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Coen Brothers Best,
This review is from: Miller's Crossing (DVD)Fluid, Dreamlike but with its feet firmly in the gutter.
Ive always felt this was the Coen brothers best film, the script is quirky, funny, savage, and flows perfectly the cast gives amazing performances, and the films look is unique but classic, timeless.
it has everything in it that makes the Coen brothers such wonderful film makers.
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Coen Brothers' Film!,
This review is from: Miller's Crossing (VHS Tape)"Miller's Crossing" is the Coen brothers' homage to gangster flicks. This is a movie that is in love with the gangster movie, from its cliches to its dialogue to its rich look, "Miller's Crossing" pays tribute to many of the great gangster films of the past.
Loosely based on Dashiell Hammet's "The Glass Key," "Miller's Crossing" has an extremely complex plot. Gabriel Byrne, in his finest performance, plays Tom, adviser and right-hand-man for Leo, played with fabulous machismo by Albert Finney. Leo, the leading gangster in an anonymous Prohibition-era town, is one of those "nice guy" gangsters - a self-professed big-hearted slob who's an "artist with the Thompson" -- the ultimate gangster weapon.
We meet Tom and Leo in a fabulous opening scene where Johnny Caspar (the delightful John Polito) talks about "ettics," fixed fights, and the need to kill off a manic John Turturro for selling the information on Caspar's fixed fights. This scene is a marvelous tribute to "The Godfather," which opens with people requesting favors of the Don. We also meet Eddie Dane, Caspar's fearsome henchman, who stalks the movie with a perpetual snarl and is the scourge of the gangster world.
This is a movie with a perfect look. From the thin spiral of smoke from a fired pistol, to the rich details of the city's gin-joints, to the ominous beauty of Miller's Crossing, the movie is steeped in its time period. One of the best shots is a perversion of a Norman Rockwell painting where a young ragamuffin and his pet dog peer closely at a murdered gangster -- just the kind of ironic twist that fans of the Coens will love.
The plot gets going because Leo refuses to give Caspar the permission to whack John Turturro for selling the fixed fight information. Caspar, a powerful gangster in his own right, declares war on Leo. In a magnificent scene, two henchmen try to whack Leo in his house, and while Leo's house goes up in flames Leo blows away the two hitmen as well as a carful of other assassins on the street outside. In typical Coen fashion, the scene is accompanied by a soaring rendition of "Danny Boy" -- wow!
Complicating matters, Tom is sleeping with Leo's girlfriend, Verna (Patricia Gay Harden, who throws the best punch ever thrown by a woman in a gangster film), and Leo finds out. Tom appears to flip sides, going over to Caspar and the Dane and appears to be working on their side. Still, this movie is about codes of honor, and ulterior motives remain intact.
The dialogue in this movie is wonderful, with gangster/period slang injecting a strong dose of style and wit into the movie. Instead of a mere, "What's up?" we hear, "What's the rumpus?" Instead of "Get out," we hear, "Take your flunky and dangle." Instead of "That's insulting," we hear, "I'm sick of the high hat!" Instead of "I'm going to rat you out," we get, "If I don't hear from you, I start eating in restaurants." And Steve Buscemi steals the show with a rapid-fire speech to Tom.
After a bunch of double-crosses, threats, gunfights, pointed jokes about city corruption, and subtle jokes about the veiled homosexuality underlying virtually all gangster movies, "Miller's Crossing" builds to a dark crescendo when all motives are laid bare. The characters cross the point of no return, and the movie closes with a wonderfully-enigmatic, melancholy Tom staring after his beloved Verna and Leo.
A bit dark and bloody, even by the Coen brothers' standards, this movie will have some squirming in their seats from time to time. But make no mistake - this is a movie filled with beauty, humor, and the sheer love of filmmaking. A must-have for any fan of the gangster genre as well as any fan of the Coens' other films.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Underrated Gangland Masterpiece,
This review is from: Miller's Crossing (DVD)In the world of gangster movies, there are many titles that deserve to be on the list of the greatest ever. Classics like THE GODFATHER, GOODFELLAS, and ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA are usually mentioned in the same breadth and deservedly so. One film that also deserves to be on the list, and isn't but should be regardless, is MILLER'S CROSSING, the third feature from the highly talented Coen Brothers released in 1990. The Coens are mostly known for their later-day masterworks like FARGO and THE BIG LEBOWSKI, not to mention their second film RAISING ARIZONA which starred Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter. After seeing MILLER'S CROSSING for the first time, as well as numerous times after that, I have to say that this is their crowning achievement. It's practically flawless from beginning to end; even most so-called "perfect" films have at least one or two small flaws in them. Everything fires on all cylinders during all two hours of MILLER'S CROSSING, and if there's any flaw whatsoever, I can't find any.
Gabriel Byrne, in probably his best performance, stars as Tom Reagan, the wise right-hand man to Leo (Albert Finney), an Irish crime boss who is engaging in a turf war with his former protege turned rival Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito), the leader of the Italian mob. In the first scene of the film, Johnny wants Leo to order a hit on a nervous nelly named Bernie (a terrific John Turturro) who he claims has been selling out his fight bets to various others, making him lose money in the process. Leo refuses to do the favor for Caspar, since Bernie is the brother of his lover Verna (Marcia Gay Harden). Tom thinks that not killing Bernie is a bad idea, but remains loyal to Leo and his decision. However, Tom is also having an affair with Verna, and it begins to test his trust with Leo. Caspar, meanwhile, orders a hit on Leo which fails miserably (in a hilariously bloody sequence with the music of the Irish song "Danny Boy" playing in the background), but that is not going to stop Caspar from trying to claim the throne. When Tom finally confesses to Leo that he is sleeping with Verna, Leo is through with him for good. This leaves an open door though. Knowing all the angles from every side, Tom decides to play all of them, remaining loyal to Leo while getting all of his enemies out of the way, and to also pay off his enormous gambling debts.
This is about as far with the plot as I go. The plot for the movie is very complicated, and you may need a second viewing to figure out what's going on, but this is one of those rare movies that rewards repeated viewings. The plot itself is so well-written and it shows on screen. There's a surprise lurking around every corner, but it never detracts from the story like most movies do. It enhances the experience, which is the right way to go. And thankfully, the Coens don't sacrifice character development, which helps because we really do care about these characters (yes, even the bad ones).
The performances are all top-notch. Gabriel Byrne is perfect as Tom, a man who has the brains and chops to be a leader, and isn't as big of a sap as Leo, yet decides to stay in the shadows until called for. He also lets his flaws be known and doesn't want to be forgiven for them, which is refreshing considering that in this lifestyle, flaws are usually seen as a virtue. Albert Finney is both tough and vulnerable as Leo. He can be downright sweet with his friends, and be very vicious with a tommy gun if he gets his hands on one. Marcia Gay Harden is slinky and seductive as Verna - so much so that you can't tell what her motives are and which side she's on. John Tuturro is awesome as Bernie, who develops him as a nebbish fellow in way over his head at first, but makes him more devious later on in the film and he turns out to be important to the plot than we realized. Jon Polito is very funny as Caspar; J.E. Freeman is dark and menacing as Caspar's long-time friend and hit man Eddie Dane; and Steve Buscemi has a small cameo as Bernie's friend Mink, who also plays a vital part later on.
The set design and cinematography also warrant a mention. The camerawork is just stunning in this movie, showing the 1930s atmosphere in all its lurid glory, and evoking the feel of a Dick Tracy comic book at the same time. The buildings and stage sets also show what is was like at that time period, and makes you really feel like you're there. Heck, even the dialogue crackles with the zing and style of what they must've said back then (almost everyone in the movie asks at some point, "What's the rumpus?").
This is as close to perfect as a movie is ever gonna get, in my opinion. MILLER'S CROSSING is an absolute triumph in every sense of the word, and my only complaint about it is that it ends too soon like most great movies do. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Irish Mob Film,
This review is from: Miller's Crossing (DVD)While not given much attention upon release, Miller's Crossing has developed a devoted cult following, particularly among fans of the Coen Bros. Ratcheting up the elements that made Blood Simple so popular (grotesque, humorous violence, bizarre but consistent characters, random chance undoing complex plans, incredible plot complexity, etc. etc. etc.), Miller's Crossing nonetheless manages to be far more emotionally powerful than the earlier film. This one bears quite a few repeat viewings, with a plot full of more twists and turns than most of us can follow in one sitting. Like most of the Coens' films, this is tremendously enjoyable, even when you're not quite sure what's happening or why. This is one of my all-time favorites. A perfect script, great cinematogrophy, a top-notch cast, and, of course, flawless production and direction make this one a classic waiting to be discovered. Simply put, one of the best films ever made. Miller's Crossing is a morality play created with infinite style. Complex characters, complex plot, excellent acting, and great editing. Probablly Gabriel Byrne's best work. If you consider yourself a sophisticated moviegoer, this is not one to miss. But a caveat to the mainstream, you can't eat popcorn and watch this movie at the same time; it requires your full attention. And if you thought that the Road to Perdition was a great film you will probably not understand why so many of us love Miller's Crossing.
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally out on DVD!!!,
This review is from: Miller's Crossing (DVD)Is there honor among thieves?
So goes the central question of an early film from the Coen brothers. When they made it, the Coen's were still running out of the public eye - their quirky masterpieces, "Raising Arizona" and "Fargo" had not yet brought them fame. And because of that, "Miller's Crossing", a film about mob conflicts between the Irish gangs and the Italians in an unnamed Midwestern city (it is Chicago, isn't it???? Or is it?) did not reap its fame in theaters, but became a cult favorite on VHS. The release of the DVD in May of 2003 raised even more interest in the film.
In the Coen's world of gangsters, you don't just wait for the next killing, you've got to stay on your toes and figure out the next double-cross, and the next, and the next. Betrayal, revenge, and following orders - those are the central themes that result in loss of life in this period piece. The Coen's show early mastery of cinematography, score and sound. The camera angles, the transition between scenes, the focus on the details in the forest, and in every scene that takes place in Tom's apartment...they're all intricate and award-winning.
But, the film is ultimately character driven. The Coen's cast a couple of actors they weren't that familiar with (Gabriel Byrne as Tom Reagan and Albert Finney, so Irish he's green as Leo, the mob boss) and surrounded them with their usual cronies: Jon Polito as a rival of Leo's, Italian Johnny Caspar; John Turturro in fine form as Bernie Bernbaum; bit parts for Steve Buscemi, Michael Jeter, and J.E. Freedman as Caspar's henchman, "the Dane". They took a chance on unknown actress Marcia Gay Harden to play the sexy, conniving Verna; and it paid off, as she played brilliantly, foreshadowing her skills and the Oscar she received for "Pollock", and her nomination for "Mystic River" this year.
Synopsis of the plot:
The seeds of dissension are sown, and before the film ends, Tom has been everyone's whipping boy, based on his innate ability for the double cross. The final scenario leaves your head spinning, but in true Coen form, the central question - is there honor among thieves? - has been answered. And like the big, big movies of the 40's and 50's, the Coen's leave the best for the last; you will savor the last big scene.
I thought Gabriel Byrne was wonderful in the lead role.
At the time he shot this, he'd had bit parts in television and movies for over ten years. "Miller's Crossing", his first lead, proved his vehicle to move his career up, and helped him cross over into film producing. He has the memorable lines:
"If you want me to keep my mouth shut, it's gonna cost you some dough. I figure a thousand bucks is reasonable, so I want two."
And to Verna, who's a Jewess:
"If I'd known we were gonna cast our feelings into words, I'd have memorized the Song of Solomon."
Chemistry between Harden and Byrne is a bit puzzling, but it is definitely living and breathing onscreen.
There isn't a poor performance in "Miller's Crossing", but special mention should go to character actor John Turturro, who has the benefit of the role that would normally go to Steve Buscemi, (and Buscemi has little more than a walk on). True to form, Turturro and Buscemi can each play the mealy-mouthed, snide little characters that annoy everyone....really a mark of how brilliant each of them is! Laughingly, Turturro based his painful, whiny character on his observations of director Barry Sonnenfeld's demeanor on the set!
And in a truly Coen-like twist, Albert Finney also shows his versatility by appearing, as a gag, in drag, in the background of the ladies' room, a scene in which Tom confronts Verna about her brother.
There are just not enough accolades to give the quality of this film, and the transfer to DVD is inspiring, although special features are limited to discussions with director and actors. Since they're all such fascinating individuals, this may have proved wisest - it takes nothing away from the film.
Worth a spot in your DVD collection, "Miller's Crossing" is not "The Godfather" - but almost.
5.0 out of 5 stars A dangerous intersection indeed....,
This review is from: Miller's Crossing (DVD)This is one of the earlier collaborations by the Cohen brothers who co-authored the screenplay, directed by Joel Cohen. I enjoyed it more when I saw it again recently than I did the first time almost 15 years ago because I now have a greater appreciation of Barry Sonnenfeld's brilliant cinematography. The acting is also outstanding, notably Gabriel Byne (Tom Reagan), Albert Finney (Leo), Marcia Gay Harden (Verna), Joe Polito (Johnny Caspar), and John Turturro (Bernie Bernbaum). There are two separate but related plots which are resolved, inevitably, in a violent climax. The first involves relationships between Irish-American and Italian-American gangsters during the 1930s; the other involves Reagan's relationships with his boss, Leo, and Leo's paramour, Verna. The screenplay examines how these and other relationships interact as loyalties are forged and betrayed, ambitions collide, and difficult choices must be made. Bernie Bernbaum is one of the most interesting characters in this film. He is Verna's brother, a silver-tongued bookie, who pays for protection by Leo which proves necessary when he falls deeply into debt to Caspar. The Coens are experts at choreographing almost casual human collisions during the completion of what often resembles a chess game, focusing our attention on a sequence of moves and counter-moves. (That is less true of the Coens' Fargo which has a much tighter plot.) As in The Road to Perdition (2002), this film brilliantly captures its period and locale while examining various types of dysfunctional relationships which have probably existed for thousands of years. Whereas I associate the first and second Godfather films with Tolstoy and Dickens, I associate Miller's Crossing as well as The Road to Perdition with Aeschylus and Sophocles.
2.0 out of 5 stars What a dissapointment,
This review is from: Miller's Crossing (DVD)I bought this DVD based on the recommendations in Amazon and the actors - I typically enjoy Gabriel Byrne films (Defence of the Realm is superb) and Albert Finney is a favourite.
I watched the film and fell asleep (admittedly I was tired). The next evening I took another look. What a dissapointment. Quite simply this film didn't do it. Byrne was totally emotionless - took some severe beatings without so much a showing a scratch. Predictable film. Just lacking. Period.
One to rent from Blockbuster, not to buy.
5.0 out of 5 stars Is it a Game? Is it Fixed?: You decide.,
This review is from: Miller's Crossing (DVD)(WARNING: This film is definitely not for everyone, even if you're a gangster or noir film fan.)
There is nothing about this film I dislike: plot, dialogue, wonderfully composed deep-focus shots, the subtle tri-color scheme which I missed on first viewing (which of course is the point of the film: we see, but do not observe), the characters, the Celtic-tinged score, editing, sound effects,acting, etc. The Coen brother's films are often offbeat to begin with, but this film reveals a depth rarely seen in this most commercial of eras.
5.0 out of 5 stars If you think you know the Coen Brothers�,
This review is from: Miller's Crossing (DVD)It is hard to find DVDs treated with such reverence by their makers.
The quality of the transfer, color saturation, and the extras are all some of the best seen in release.
Add to that, one of the better bits of story-telling in many years.
Hard to believe this was only the Coen Brother's second outing in film, just after the auspicious debut, "Blood Simple".
For those who didn't pick up on their work until the success of "Raising Arizona", it is very much worth going back & picking up this DVD. It's recreation of the 1920s, and the dissection of gangland rivalries, is exceptional.
Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Tuturro, Marcia Gay Harden are all exceptional. But there are many more actors in smaller but pivital rolls who will also catch your eye.
And in the annals of cinema, the sequence where Albert Finney's character has a shoot-out with opposing gang hit-men, will be studied for years. Terrific storytelling, with nary a word spoken. It ranks up there with the opening scene of "Touch of Evil".
For those of you who love great moviemaking, this is for you.
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Miller's Crossing by Joel Coen (DVD - 2005)
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