Plot – Tom Reagan, an advisor to a Prohibition-era crime boss, tries to keep the peace between warring mobs but gets caught in divided loyalties – Miller’s Crossing.
Released – 1991
Miller’s Crossing is by no stretch of the imagination your typical gangster flick. Its gangsters in the Coen brother’s style with a touch of noir. It almost feels like a throwback to the gangsters of old such as Scarface (1932) or Little Caesar (1931), where the criminals have principles and ethics, you know that most of the police are just as corrupt and the mayor simply works for whoever holds the power on the streets.
Both Finney and Polito offer wonderful performances as rival crime bosses vying for control of the city, while Byrne successfully brings life to the character of Tom Reagan, a man caught between the two warring mobsters, however, it’s the incredibly talented Turturro playing the two-timing Bernie Bernbaum who steals the show with what can only be described as an electric performance. The Coens struck gold when they cast him, and I can’t think of anyone better for the role.
Miller’s Crossing also benefits from a grittiness that stems from the performances and visual style, while the impressive art direction and abundance of violence really drags. So much so that sometimes you feel like you’re caught up in the action alongside the characters, you feel worries when they are in danger and just when you expect one thing to happen; the opposite occurs.
While this is a refreshing take compared to most of the gangster films I’ve seen lately, the movie falters when it comes to the writing and dialogue. Coen brothers’ films are usually filled with sharp-tongued characters who make use of a wide vocabulary and although Miller’s Crossing is no different.
Here it takes away from the film rather than adding to it. The characters are so eloquent and wise-cracking that it undermined their threats. It makes you wonder where all these hardened criminals went to become so clever and why then they would choose a life of crime.
Overall, Miller’s Crossing is a good gangster film that possesses multiple reasons to watch it more than once, as long as you don’t mind the Coens inability to make a standard genre picture.