The third film from the Coen Brothers, Miller’s Crossing has a tone similar to the noir gangster films popular in the 1930’s and 40’s. It follows the relationship between city boss Leo O’Bannon (Albert Finney) and right-hand man Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne).
Boss O’bannon has a rival in the city, Italian mobster boss Johnny Caspar (John Polito) who in the opening monologue tries to get O’bannon to kill slimy Bernie (John Turturro) for double-crossing him. To complicate matters the boss is in love with Bernie’s sister Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) and promised her he would protect him.
To add more complications, Tom is having a secret affair with Verna and after his boss finds out he befriends the Italian gang and in a twist is ordered to kill Bernie in the woods at Miller’s Crossing. What follows is double-crosses, violent killings and assassination attempts all done in the offbeat style that the Coens have become famous for.
The film is excellent in many ways, from the snappy dialogue, great cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld and great performances from all involved. Highlights include the opening scene and the amazingly shot and edited hit attempt on the boss at his mansion (Great use of the song Danny Boy). Also, look out for nice cameos by Steve Buscemi and director Sam Raimi.
The film centres on Tom who is a man who does not know what he wants in life and just seems lonely, it’s a great performance from Gabriel Byrne and the banter between him and Albert Finney shows you the mutual respect they have for each other. John Turturro also stands out as slimeball Bernie, an amazing performance with him being nasty in one scene and crying and begging for his life in the next. The bleak green and brown tones of the film match the gloomy feel of the portrait of the characters.
This film shows the maturity of The Coen’s directorial style and stands up very well today and it is very much worth revisiting.
8 out of 10