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Miller's Crossing

A film by Joel and Ethan Coen about Prohibition era gangsters

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Nobody knows anybody. Not that well.

  • Jan 28, 2010
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 the head of the rival mob complains when he is undercut by a third rival--and how well can we really now someone. Byrne's character throws off the line that serves as my review title in his typical hard-boiled delivery--but we come to realize that it is a serious question for him when he is faced with killing the brother of the boss's--and his--mistress to prove his loyalty to his new boss. Byrne can't do it; as his mark (John Turturro) begs for his life:

"You don't bump guys! You're not like those animals back there. It's not right, Tom! They can't make us do this. It's the wrong situation, they can't make us different people than we are."

While we learn more about each character, as we look through Byrne's eyes, we never really do know them not that well.

We do learn that in the 30's, men looked good in hats, gangsters had free reign of city streets and governments, and their armament consisted of everything up to and including tripod-mounted machine guns! The violence can be sudden and harsh, but is softened by the sharp dialogue and beautiful directorial work of the Coens. Don't miss the scene involving a small boy, his dog, and an askew toupee. The camera angles, framing, cuts, and timing are perfect, and turn a throw-away scene into a 30-second gem. The movie is full of little moments like this.

In the end, Miller's Crossing works as gangster movie, as comedy, as character play, as period piece, and as a glance in the mirror at someone we may not know. Not that well.

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More Miller's Crossing reviews
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.
review by . July 23, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Gabriel Byrne as Tom Reagan
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 …
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
Todd Stockslager ()
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … 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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