Miller's Crossing Reviews
[Joel & Ethan Coen]
The acting is top notch. Albert Finney really shines as Leo, a gruff untouchable gang boss. Jon Tolinto also does an excellent job of playing Leo's rival, Caspar. I think in a lesser actor's hands this part could have been a real miss. Caspar is an over the top manic sociopath that Tolinto captures well. Gabriel Bryne also does an excellent job as the lead. The action sequences are also stylistically brilliant and captivating. One element that the Coen Brothers have always had a real knack for is a tight and well executed visual style. Moments of brutal violence are used with authority, and the action plays out with a deft hand.
My real criticism of the film, and I feel this is maybe an odd thing to say, but it tries too hard. The dialogue is too punchy, quick and witty. There are so many good exchanges and memorable lines, but they become almost overwhelming. The characters really lose some punch as the show drags on. They stop being characters and become caricatures. The sets are also beautiful and immaculate, but, again, almost too much so. You almost feel like the characters are self-aware that they are staring in a big movie set.
I sense this was maybe by design to make the film a bit of a parody on this iconic genre. I am not sure that part of the film works. The film has so many excellent purist moments. The showdown at the end between Tom and Bernie, the long walk into the woods. I appreciated some of the flair of the movie and the screen play had some excellent moments, but it sometimes was just "too much".
Its a hard thing to say such brilliant film makers who, again, made a good film simply tried too hard, but I think that is the core issue holding this film back. I sort of liken this movie to an overly complicated fancy dinner. Even if it was delicious and expertly crafted, at some point the gimmicks and mastery go too far and I just want a cheeseburger. I think Miller's Crossing engaging in that overindulgence, on occasion. Still, an excellent film overall.
It's quite unbelievable how the density of aesthetics, combined with the superb filming and acting, create such a simple "looking" film so incredibly satisfying to view and pleasing to the eye, even though the colours used are neutral, dull, old, and you may call this depressing. On the contrary, it's the mood and setting that just the colours emit to create just the right atmosphere for a film like this.