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Miller's Crossing

A film by Joel and Ethan Coen about Prohibition era gangsters

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"Oh Danny boy, the tommy guns are calling!"

  • Jul 23, 2009
It's hard to find someone who doesn't like gangster movies.  Gangster movies show such a complex, criminal world with colorful characters, drama and violence that makes it easy to get caught up and engrossed in.

To me the Coen Brothers have made some of the best and most unique films out now.  Focussing on crime but delving into comedy and drama, almost every one of their movies are different and unique and many of their movies simply look astounding.  To have them make a gangster film is a treat.

It's the prohibition and an Italian Gangster's presance in town has grown and he has tracked down the leaks in his gambling activities to a bookie who he wants "rubbed out" and goes to Irish party boss Leo O' Bannon to make sure the hit doesn't interfere in his business.  It would since the bookie pays for protection and the bookie's sister is dating Leo.  Leo's confidant, Tom Reagan advises against the move since upsetting the rival mob would only lead to trouble, that and Tom is sleeping with the same woman.  Taking these events into the movie we see both mobs come to violence and Tom staying ahead of everyone else on both sides to keep peace.

A little more violent then the Godfather movies and with characters who explain their motives out loud to know where they're going, the characters may lack subtlety but make up for it in depth.  Gabriel Byrne's Tom Reagan is always thinking and plotting out moves and keeps his mouth shut to not let anything out.  A particular scene however shows him staying shut for other reasons.  Albert Finney's Leo is a compassionate man who can hold his own in a fight but wouldn't have to fight so much if he'd use his head.  John Turturro's Bernie is a weasely little toad.  He'll change the color of his fur if it will keep him out of trouble, or if it will put him in a better position.  J E Freeman's Eddie Dane casts a big shadow as Johnny Caspar's main heavy.  Smarter then the average goon and he packs a wicked revolver.  Even minor characters like Frankie and Tick Tack have their defining attributes.

As great as Millers' Crossing is, it stumbles in two places.  One, it is hard to follow.  Characters are talked about here and there and you don't see them very much and maybe not until later and watching Tom maipulate the powers that be gets confusing.  Another problem is the dialouge.  Written long before Tarrentino hipped up the dialogue world with colorful sentances and sililoques, many of the characters talk in ways that you would almost wonder why they are gangsters and not poet laurettes.  Theres plenty of tough guy talk to round out the characters but you wonder what schools they went to.

Miller's Crossing is arguably the underdog in the Coen's film canon with Blood Simple getting noteriety for being their first movie and other movies like Intolerable Cruelty getting by because of the stars that are in them.  Like the calm wind whipping off your hat onto the serene forest clearing at Miller's Crossing, the movie has a quiet charm and if you can follow the story cinch up to the end you will have witnessed one of those small miracles with nary a rumpus. 
Gabriel Byrne as Tom Reagan Jon Politio as Johnny Caspar, Italian gang boss J. E. Freeman as Eddie Dane with Verna, the twist The rub out at Miller's Crossing The mobrun police open up on an opposing speakeasy Sam Raimi as a gunman

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October 21, 2010
Excellent review good Sir, it seems I liked this more than you,oh well. Great review once more.
October 19, 2010
Yup, I loved this movie but I can't say I disagree with some of your observations. Nice review!
October 19, 2010
Oh yeah. This movie is nice but it's flawed. I think a movie list put this on it's top 100 a few years ago.
More Miller's Crossing reviews
review by . January 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Can the Coen brothers make a bad movie? I haven't seen it yet.     Saying that Miller's Crossing is "a gangster movie", or is "about gangsters" is like saying that War and Peace is "about" Napoleon's invasion of Russia. Yes, the story involves Gabriel Byrne as a smart-mouthed young assistant to the head gangster (Albert Finney)--and who just happens to be sleeping with the boss's main squeeze (Marcia Gay Harden). But the movie is really about honesty--a question of ethics, as …
Quick Tip by . October 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
One of the best movies I've seen. It has been in my top 5 movies since I first saw it when it was released. I have never been able to review it because the review becomes a Master's thesis. I recommend it without reservation.
Quick Tip by . October 06, 2009
Gangster pic about Irish and Italian gangsters and a man in the middle. A little too refined for it's own good at times but still great.
review by . January 27, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
About the reviewer
John Nelson ()
Born in Wausau Wisconsin. Move at an early age to Ventura California and lived for 8 years. Growing up in a big city landscape didn't prepare me for my next move: Archbold Ohio with a population of … more
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About this movie


Leo, a likeable Irish gangster boss, rules an Eastern city along with Tom, his trusted lieutenant and couselor. But just as their authority is challenged by an Italian underboss and his ruthless henchman, Leo and Tom fall for the same woman. Tom, caught in the jaws of a gangland power struggle, walks a deadly tightrope as he tries to control and manipulate its violent outcome.
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Director: Coen Brothers
Screen Writer: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

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