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Miller's Crossing (DVD)

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Genre: Action & Adventure / Theatrical Release: 1990 / Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen / Actors: Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden ... / DVD released 13 October, 2003 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, PAL, Widescreen

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      12.05.2011 19:59
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      Impressive gangster thriller from the Coens

      Miller's Crossing is an intrinsic and often complicated gangster thriller that focuses on one man's involvement with the gangs in an unnamed American city, choosing adviser Tom Regan as the protagonist as creators the Coen brothers show once again just why they're the best at the thoughtful and darkly comic thriller. There's not so much of the comedy in this one though, and it becomes more about the power struggle and about trust than anything else.

      Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne) is an adviser to gang boss Leo (Albert Finney) who runs the 'town'. When loyalties start to get fractious following other prominent names in the gangster 'circle', Leo finds himself less favourable, and Tom's reputation starts to come into question. With elements of trust flowing back and forth, girlfriends, brothers, family and friends and of course business, it soon becomes every man for himself, but it's a clever man who realises that you need to try and please all of the people all of time to succeed and indeed survive.

      Byrne plays Regan with patience, something that I feel is essential to this film. The Coen brothers have that interesting look at individuals before adding them into a cast as such, making sure we know enough about each character before they're thrown into the mix to be lost among the rest of them. As each character gets their background buildup before things start happening, you start to think you know what's going on and just exactly who is in charge, who is in control, and who is having the wool pulled over their eyes. In a sense, it's like most films with a twist, where one character turns the tables on everyone else without you knowing. Here, though, it doesn't quite work like that - you know there are things going on all the time, and you can see most of them, it's just the way the Coens put things together that makes you think about why they're being done.

      However, the dialogue is the real winner here, with the various solo pieces and clever and catchy one liners, carefully considered jabs at opponents in as much abundance as the off the cuff remarks and thoughtless comments. I suppose it's the balance and just how intricate everything ends up becoming, but what's magical about it is that it all seems believable and normal in terms of how it could get that complicated. In a masterful display of plot and character creation, the slow paced nature and seemingly simple plot bely what is ultimately such an intricately woven tale that you only realise it's complicated once the credits start to role. It's only then that you get the chance to really think about what you've just watched, and as you realise the little symbolic elements such as Regan's dream about a black hat falling in a clearing actually come to mean something, that John Turturro's dodgy and untrustworthy small time crook is a bigger player than you first think, and the occasional turning of tables, putting each and every character on the back foot and front foot firmly and equally along with everyone else.

      The acting is very solid indeed. I can't say it's excellent, as it's more the script that performs the magic, but you still need some powerful acting in order to bring this across. Finney always holds the screen to ransom whenever he's on it, but Byrne steals it away from him here. The casting of Marcia Gay Harden as Verna, the woman at the centre of it, all goes along with the Coens' habit of avoiding the obvious and glamourous choices of leading ladies and going for the stronger and more believable woman instead, thus making sure the acting is key. I thought she was good, but there was nothing particularly special there. Turturro also kind of falls into this category, and doesn't really excel as I've seen him in other films where he's allowed to be a bit more outlandish and extrovertial. Jon Polito is a solid support actor and fits the bill as a rival gangster, and the scenes between him and his henchman Dane (J E Freeman) show elements of the usual Coen dark subtle comedy. Aside from these main players, it's largely support, although the occasional small role such as the mayor and police head appearing at the desk of whichever gangster holds more power is amusing and pokes fun at underworld politics, and there's a decent small part for Steve Buscemi.

      Initially, I didn't think much of this film, and I suppose when you're watching it, it doesn't seem all that special. However, retrospectively, you can look at this and marvel at what you've just seen. It's easily the sort of film you could watch over and over, as it has so much going on and the subtle elements can easily escape you at first. Overall, one I'm happy to recommend, and while it's not the greatest film you'll ever see, it certainly lives up to the high reputation the Coens have developed for themselves. Recommended.

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        17.06.2010 12:25
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        On of the Cohen Brothers' best.

        Miller's Crossing is a Prohibition-era US gangster film by the Cohen Brothers, who are also responsible for the likes of Fargo, The Big Lebowski and O' Brother Where Art Thou. The film stars Gabriel Byrne as Tom, the second in command to local Irish Mafioso boss Frankie, played with great understatement by Albert Finney. Byrne's character is scheming and somewhat Machievallian yet still likable, and not without compassion as he proves when he is given the task of dispatching a troublemaking young jew (Bernie Bernbaum) by putting a bullet through his brain in the woods. Byrne allows the jewish kid to talk him out of killing him; a decision influenced in part by the fact that Byrne is seeing his sister, but instead of showing gratitude the kid decides to hang around after his release, figuring that so long as he is alive and proof of Byrne's disobedience to his superiors, he has Byrme wrapped around his little finger. Things are further complicated when it turns out that Byrne's girl has been seeing Burne's boss all the time, and that he plans to marry her, setting the scene for a power-struggle within the criminal underworld, with another rival Italian mafia boss Johnny Caspar ( a charicatured Jon Polito and his ruthless assassin 'The Dane' (J E Freeman) vying for a piece of the pie.

        Like the Cohen's other films, Miller's Crossing is blackly humorous, and whilst essentially a serious film it also strays into some very cartoonish territory on occasion; one sequence in which an assassination goes wrong ends up with a fantastically over-the-top, cigar-chomping, tommygun-blazing sequence that wouldn't be out of place in a Dick Tracy comic-strip. The plot is labyrinthine and thrilling, the acting superb and the narrative intelligent and funny. The characters are colourful and well-written, and the cinematography is also excellent throughout. The script is pretty dense, and the film can be watched countless times without becoming stale. In many ways it reminds of the superb 30s crime thriller LA Confidential, and though Miller's Crossing is a more cartoonish affair it is no less intelligent, complex or engaging. A superb gangster film.

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        03.06.2010 12:21
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        Just a stunning, brooding modern film noir gangster mix

        Miller's Crossing is another little known classic film from Joel and Ethan Coen, the genius duo behind Fargo and No County for Old Men. It's a shame this isn't more widely known, because it's actually a very fine and meticulous film with some of the most beautiful camerawork I've ever seen, some subtle and brooding acting and a film noir style plot that keeps you guessing to the end. It doesn't have an A list cast, but the actors are all outstanding and very established character actors who do a far better job than any major stars could have. The film stars Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden and John Turturro, and is based in prohibition age USA.

        In prohibition era USA, some Irish American gangsters are involved in bootlegging and gambling. One city is run by Irish American gangster called Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney), who has Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) as his second in command. Though Tom is very clever, he's also prone to gambling so much that he's often in debt. Leo is often prone to anger. Between them, they are a brilliant team.

        However, when an Italian rival threatens to kill a bookie called Bernie, Leo doesn't listen to Tom and gives Bernie protection. This creates a rift between Tom and Leo, and soon there is a gang war as the Italians decide that they will kill however they have to to get to Bernie. Things get even worse when Tom and Leo have an argument over a woman and Leo beats Tom up. Tom quits and goes out on his own, seemingly to join the Italians. But he has a plan of his own, and soon puts it into place, leading to plenty of clever twists and turns, some cracking action, some thrills and a very clever and poignant climax.

        This really is a class act. At the time of release, the film crashed in the cinema. But like other Coen brothers' films, it has become a cult classic and a huge success since. And rightfully so. The plot is a very deep one, based around the gangster films of the 30's and 40's, and also has many references to the film noir genre. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, with some Coen brothers over the top action and dark humour along the way. The thing that really makes this film a cut above is the camerawork and colour. Visually, this film is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. The way the light is used, the way shadows are used and the stunning camerwork really do everything to make this film a classic.

        The acting is as deep as the film. All the actors are established character actors, and with Albert Finney and Gabriel Byrne as the stars, this is a totally compelling film. The support from John Turturro as the slimy Bernie is also brilliant, and watch out for Steven Buscemi in one of his earlier roles as well.

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        16.11.2009 15:41
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        Film noir, with a Coen slant.

        Miller's Crossing is a 1990 film written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, and starring Gabriel Byrne and Albert Finney.

        In an unnamed city, in prohibition era America, Tom Reagan (Byrne) is an advisor to Irish gangster kingpin Leo O'Bannon. When Italian gangster Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) advises Leo that he intends to kill Jewish bookmaker Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) for double crossing him, Leo refuses permission for the hit since he's sleeping with Bernie's sister Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) who's also seeing Tom. This decision leads to strained relations between Tom and Leo, since the former doesn't see it as a good business decision. An escalating war between the Italian and Irish gangsters errupts, with Tom looking to keep himself alive he goes to work for Caspar, who tells him he has to kill Bernie. An act of mercy turns out to cause Tom more problems than it's probably worth, especially when the homicidal Eddie Dane is out to prove that Tom is a fraud.

        This film sees the Coens in a more serious mood than normal, looking to evoke the film noir of yesterday, where the heroes had all the angles covered and everyone had a motive to double cross someone else. Their hero of the piece, Tom Reagan, is very much in this mould, quick with a cutting comment and happy to be working on his own. The labyrinthyne plot brings cross and double-cross but manages to tie all the threads together for a satisfactory conclusion. It won't be to everyone's tastes, with some slightly surrealy cartoonish sections (such as the police breaking up nightclubs or the boxer who won't stop screaming) bringing some levity to proceedings which can at times feel slightly out of place. If you're a lover of the Coens' films though, you will recognise this has them just allowing some of their playfulness into proceedings. As with all Coen brothers films, dialogue is key to their successful. Almost creating their own language using faux hardboiled gangster lines ("are you giving me the high hat?!?!" "Nobody knows anybody, not that well") the verbal sparring of the characters is brilliant. The Coens also add some subtle quirkiness about gangsters loving their hats.

        Gabriel Byrne is brilliant as the straight faced Tom, always looking to play his enemies off against one another without always being sure it'll be successful, giving him some vunerability. And for such a tough guy character, he's quite a rubbish fighter! Albert Finney looks like he's enjoying himself as the belligerent Leo, giving a reminder of why he's held in such high regard. Turturro steals most of the scenes he is in as the weasly Bernie, which is usually the case for this brilliant actor. Even Steve Buscemi, in a very brief cameo, is memorable but some of this is thanks to the brilliant lines the Coens write for their characters.

        Perhaps not one of their best known works, but more proof if it were needed that the brothers Coen are two of the most consistently brilliant film makers around.

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        27.07.2009 20:36
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        A hidden gem

        Miller's Crossing is the third feature film from directors/writers Joel and Ethan Coen. Released in 1990 it is a crime thriller starring Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finny and Marcia Gay Harden.

        The film is set in prohibition-era USA and deals with a growing conflict between two rival gangs. The main character Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) is the advisor and confidant to Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney), an Irish gangster who runs the city. As a feud between O'Bannon and his mafia Italian rival Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) spirals out of control, Reagan plays the two gangs up against each other; switching sides and manipulating situations for him own gain.

        Miller's Crossing is an excellent example of the gangster genre, and regarded by many as one of the finest crime dramas ever made. The plot, dialog and interaction between the characters is all first class, as you would expect from a Coen Brothers film, the only problem being sometimes it's hard to follow what is being said, due to the 1930's slang which is used.

        The soundtrack is really good as well, always fitting the scene perfectly, matching up with the excellent camera work. The film is dark and gloomy, and at times very slow paced, but this just makes the shocking bursts of violence seem even more powerful. Like all Coen Brothers films it's dotted with moments of dark comedy, which leave you with a smile on your face, even if they may be a little out of place in a genre film like this.

        Major cast;
        Gabriel Byrne as Tom Reagan
        John Turturro as Bernie Bernbaum
        Marcia Gay Harden as Verna Bernbaum
        Albert Finney as Leo O'Bannon
        Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar
        J.E. Freeman as Eddie Dance
        Steve Buscemi as Mink Larouie

        Director: Joel Coen
        Running Time: 115 minutes
        Release Date: 15th February 1991 (UK)
        Certification: 18

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        03.12.2008 13:07
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        An early Coen brothers' gangland classic

        One of the earlier Coen films, and one of their best - I'd put it up there with The Big Lebowski and No Country For Old Men in my personal top three! It's one of their less goofy offerings - but this being the Coens, that doesn't mean there's no humour, it just means that the humour is on the whole darker than average.

        Gabriel Byrne stars as Tom, the brooding second-in command to Irish prohibition-era gangster boss Leo (Albert Finney). A power struggle between Leo's mob and rival gangsters Johnny Casper (Jon Polito, in one of the more broadly comedic roles in the film) and his merciless sidekick Eddie Dane. To make matters worse, relations between Tom and Leo are more than strained as they are rivals for the affections fo the same woman. This being a Coens film, John Tuturro also pops up as the cowardly brother of the woman in question.

        Based on parts of two different Dashiell Hammett stories, this is masterly storytelling with fine performances and the Coens on top form.

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          19.06.2003 03:14
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          There was a line in a review of The Big Lebowski a few years back that said "In a perfect world every movie would be a Coen Bros movie". Their films may not cater to all audience tastes but they rarely put a foot wrong and Millers Crossing is the film where the duo really made their mark on cinema. The film is a hark back to the classic 30/40's noir gangster flicks where there was order, respect and a certain way things were done. There was always one man at the heart of the story and everything would revolve around his actions. The film is set during the Prohibition period where Leo (Albert Finney) an Irish gangster boss is having his authority and rule challenged by an Italian underboss and his right-hand man. Against the advice of his right hand man Tom (Gabriel Byrne) Leo lets things esculate and soon Tom finds himself walking a thin tightrope between the two fighting parties. It doesn't help as well that he's in love with Leo's girl and that he owes money around town. Millers Crossing is one of those films where you really get sucked into the period and the style. On the surface this is a pretty simple tale of double crosses and grifting. But what makes it good is that is speaks to it's audience and gives them want they want. Traditionally those who love Coen Bros movies will understand that they make homages to early genres. Millers Crossing does it in spades from the wardrobe, the locations and the sets through to the flourishes in the dialogue where you know they're making direct references to films you may have seen or have an idea of. The acting is excellent all round, Byrne is electric while Finney is as always very good. There's also good performances from Coen regulars such as John Polito and John Tuturro. JE Freeman should also get special mention in an incredibly intimdating performance as the underbosses right hand man. This is a primarily a male film where the only female influence i
          s from femme fatale Verna (Marcia Gay Harden). This again throws back to a period where women were rarely seen in movies. The coens direction and writing serves up a good blend of black comedy, violence and structured storytelling. There are moments which start off as a laugh but soon move into some violence before finishing on a smirk again. But none of it played to the audience directly, it's up to you wether you get the humour or not. Barry Sonnenfeld's cinematography is also outstanding and really captures the noir feel and golden hues of the interiors well. This film is just a giant step up from the likes of Blood Simple and Raising Arizona yet it still feels small in comparison to other gangster flicks like say Road To Perdition. I'd reccomend Millers Crossing if you like an old style of movie, it's currently priced very reasonably on R1 DVD from the likes of DVDsoon and will see a release over here in the next few months.

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            07.09.2001 01:21
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            Take the most well-known Coen films such as 'The Big Lebowski,' 'Fargo,' and the recent 'Oh Brother;' remove the comedic aspects, creativity, and uniquely intriguing characters, and you'll have a good idea of what 'Miller's Crossing' is. This is the Coen brothers attempt at a plot movie. They put all their eggs into one basket and if the basket breaks they're out of luck. Personally, I thought the movie was so-so. It added little to the gangster genre. The only thing keeping me attached to the movie was the fact that I am a big Coen fan and was interested in seeing their take on gangster film. If you've seen 'The Big Lebowski' a few times, you'd be amazed at how complex the plot is because there are so many other perks to keep you distracted. In 'Miller's Crossing,' it is plot and nothing else. If you don't like the plot you don't like the movie. I think I was most disappointed with the homogeneity of the characters. Everyone from the girl, to the police chief, to the mayor, to each and every gangster is shown as cold, calculating, and arrogant - just like every gangster film. Without novel characters or dark humor, this movie looked devoid of its Coen-ness.

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              30.05.2001 02:10
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              “Miller’s Crossing” Miller’s Crossing is a superb, gangster like movie and was directed by the fabulous Coen brothers in 1990. The Coen brothers have directed a number of very successful films including ‘Fargo’, ‘Blood Simple’ and ‘The Big Lebowski’. Now, when I say gangster like I mean that it is not your usual Godfather style murder spree. The film does include murder, yes it’s an eighteen rating and yes there are some bloody close ups, but it is not sickening. Miller’s Crossing is suave and charming with smart one liners all through the film. The film employs great acting and is visually stunning in parts. The story is set in a northern U.S city in 1929 and centres on gangland warfare. The whole scene isn’t gory though and the film is more romantically funny than murderously destructive. The story revolves around Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne) who is a friend and ‘the man behind’ Leo Brennan (Albert Finney), gangland boss and ‘politician’ i.e. he runs the town. In his dealings with one of his bosses, Johnny Casper (Jon Polito), who pay him for protection, Leo refuses to give permission to kill Bernie (John Turturro). Bernie was fixing bets on fights for Casper but letting other people in on it, thus the odds would go down and Casper would end up betting on terrible odds. Casper is too strong for Leo to brush off lightly and so the whole story unfolds from here. A rolling stone of pure excitement and brilliant pieces of filming is then set in motion. Gabriel Byrne is the man of the film, as well as the city, and Tom Regan is the man that every gang boss wants by his side. You wonder why he is such an important character in the city to begin with, but as your admiration grows for Tom and the story unravels, by the end you have realised what Tom Regan is all about and how he is ‘the man behind the man’. The fi
              lm is full of hidden meanings and is in my top five films of all time. The whole theme is of dignity, loyalty and of course, ethics. Tom’s dream of his hat blowing in the wind is something I, as I’m sure others do, think about a lot. And although at times you may lose faith in Tom may it be said he was a great man and a friend above friends. Albert Finney plays Leo extremely well and the scene where ‘Danny Boy’ is playing can only be described as untouchable. Although I admire Tom the most because Gabriel Byrne plays him so stylishly, I think Albert Finney is the coolest. It is well proven that he can ‘still trade body blows with any man’ in the town. There are some other great performances here, especially the little role Steve Buscemi fills as ‘Mink’ and ‘Eddie the Dane’ who is played by J.E Freeman. The whole scene of a sultry windy city and a dramatic musical score by Carter Burwell add even more joy to the film and help immensely in making it a classic. The song that’s played over the opening credits used to be played on my local radio station before it shut down at night (in fact it still could be), although it was a tin whistle version. It sent me to sleep many a night and I love it so much. Our Price was quite recently selling the soundtrack for a meagre £1. I couldn’t believe it when I tried to go in and buy it. They were all sold out. I was heartbroken. I think everyone should see Miller’s Crossing at least once, I’ve seen it many, many times and I love it. I notice a new thing every time I watch the film. There are loads of symbols in it. These can be seen as, the sound of the gale for danger, the hat for respect and such like. It’s been brought to my attention a few times as well that Tom spends an awful lot of time in doorways. I myself would love to know what this means. The significance of the numbers on the doors is another on
              e, I never have found out the meaning of this as well. I’m thinking of going to a Coen brother’s website somewhere and asking all of these questions. Marcia Gay Harden performs very well too, as Verne, the ‘chick between the men’. I just thought it would be unkind, as well as unfair, to leave her out. The fact that she plays such a part in the war too is not emphasised on very much. Verne is Bernie’s ‘very unfortunate’ sister. Anyway, hope you like the film and please, if you haven’t seen the film, get out and see it because it really is spectacular and if you think I’m wrong and you watch it and then come back to tell me I was right, just let it be said: “I never say ‘I told you so’ and I don’t like people who do”!! Enjoy my friends, Flashy : )

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                12.05.2001 10:58
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                A lopsided toupee, agreements and double cross, hats on, hats off, machine guns to the tune of “Danny Boy”, savage beatings, fixed fights, exiting windows, raids on clubs, twists and turns, trips to the woods and pleas for mercy. Add to this a haunting score, a brilliant script, a top drawer cast and the end result is one of the best gangster movies of all time. It’s right up there with the best of them. It’s directed by Joel Coen and written by Joel and his brother Ethan (Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou.) Leo (Albert Finney) controls just about everything and has the Mayor and the police in his back pocket. Caspar (Jon Polito) is the opposing gang boss who wants Leo out. Bernie (John Turturro) is the fuse that sets everything in motion. Tom (Gabriel Byrne) is Leo’s right hand man and is the poor sod stuck in the middle of it all. It’s quirky, atmospheric, and occasionally funny. I have no hesitation in placing it in my ton ten movies of all time. After viewing it, you might agree or disagree but it’s my opinion and that’s what it’s all about.

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                  04.08.2000 20:53
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                  Although conceived as something as a pastiche of gangster movies, MILLER'S CROSSING emerged as perhaps the greatest gangster movie of them all - unique in tone, but right up there with GOODFELLAS, the original SCARFACE, or THE GODFATHER. Set at the height of 1930s prohibition and Irish/Italian mob rivalries, MILLER'S CROSSING tells the story of Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), whose loyalty to his gangland boss, Leo (Albert Finney) is tested by his affair with Leo's lover, and his struggle to stay alive as mob war threatens to escalate. Written and directed by the Coen brothers (THE BIG LEBOWSKI, BLOOD SIMPLE, FARGO etc.), easily the most stylish film-makers in Hollywood, the film is visually dazzling - the opening credits/dream sequence is in itself one of the most strikingly beautiful few minutes you're ever likely to see on film. The rest of the film maintains that high standard, and is embellished with line after line of witty, incisive exchanges of dialogue. Yet what is truly amazing is that married to the stylistic brilliance is plot and character study of immense depth and complexity. You are never quite sure who is on whose side right up to the end, and the themes of the film, "Friendship, character...ethics" are explored with real intelligence. The film's narrative twists also borrow liberally from an old Dashiell Hammett gangster novel, THE GLASS KEY. Gabriel Byrne as "a man chasing his hat" expertly delivers an enigmatic, compelling performance later repeated in THE USUAL SUSPECTS, and is ably supported by Finney and the rest of the cast. The soundtrack - subsequently nicked by a beer commercial - is as memorable as the visuals. Not overtly commerical, but by no means inaccessible, MILLER'S CROSSING is a once-in-a-lifetime film that everyone should see.

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                    23.06.2000 02:02
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                    Miller's Crossing is the third film directed by the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan). It is a gangster film set in the 1930's and centres around a freewheeling gangster (played by Gabriel Byrne), who get's caught amongst gang war in a unamed American city. The chracters are all played with absolute perfection, included Albert Finney and John Turturro in supporting roles, and the script is top notch. Miller's Crossing is maybe the Coen brothers best work to date.

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                    Arguably the best film by Joel and Ethan Coen, the 1990 Miller's Crossing stars Gabriel Byrne as Tom, a loyal lieutenant of a crime boss named Leo (Albert Finney) who is in a Prohibition-era turf war with his major rival, Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito). A man of principle, Tom nevertheless is romantically involved with Leo's lover (Marcia Gay Harden), whose screwy brother (John Turturro) escapes a hit ordered by Caspar only to become Tom's problem. Making matters worse, Tom has outstanding gambling debts he can't pay, which keeps him in regular touch with a punishing enforcer. With all the energy the Coens put into their films, and all their focused appreciation of genre conventions and rules, and all their efforts to turn their movies into ironic appreciations of archetypes in American fiction, they never got their formula so right as with Miller's Crossing. With its Hammett-like dialogue and Byzantine plot and moral chaos mitigated by one hero's personal code, the film so transcends its self-scrutiny as a retro-crime thriller that it is a deserved classic in its own right. --Tom Keogh