Miller's Crossing Reviews
But this slick and sharp movie does not have an narrative magnet to interest us and get us through the movie, i just watched it and i couldn't describe what the movie's actually about, things happened, people got killed, the end. Nothing much really happens where we as audience members care much about the storyline. A handful of characters are instantly, slowly or barely introduced throughout the movie, at least a dozen that have some role, but not a single one you care about nor do you understand completely what they are doing and why they are there. (With an exception to Bernie beautifully portrayed by John Turturro)
All in all Miller's Crossing is a well-made film, but the narrative is far from compelling to pull is through this movie experience and it never fully convinces in terms of either period or plot, but it sure has its moments, and when they land, they flourish
Saw this on 24/1/16
This is one of the better Coen brothers film's and it didn't make me feel disappointed in the end or regret that I saw this like many of their films such as The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old men. Coen brothers are all style over substance and most of the time, the comedy in their films doesn't make me laugh even for a second, however, it's not the case with Miller's crossing. The best thing about the film is it's background score and the cinematography is not as good as they say it is. It's dialogues are sharp and few of the characters are memorable.
It was in 1984 that we were introduced to (what would become) two of cinema's finest writer/director's in Joel & Ethan Coen. Their darkly cynical debut Blood Simple grabbed audiences by the crotch yet their wacky follow up, Raising Arizona, managed to tickle said area. By their third film, Miller's Crossing, there was no denying that this was truly a creative partnership that knew how to construct and deliver films of great substance and enjoyment.
In an unnamed town during prohibition times, Tom (Gabriel Byrne) is the right-hand man to crime boss Leo (Albert Finney). Leo is heavily involved with Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) and losing his judgement as a result. When rival boss Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) comes to Leo for permission to kill Verna's brother Bernie (John Turturro) for double-crossing him, he's refused. What follows, is a war between gangs and Tom finds himself shifting allegiances while playing one side against the other.
When it was released in 1990, Miller's Crossing was a box-office failure. It took about half of it's reportedly $10 million budget and I often wonder if this could have been influenced by Martin Scorsese's more realistic gangster film, Goodfellas, being released in the same year. In hindsight, though, it has achieved somewhat of a cult status and celebrated for depicting it's criminals and their unlawful activity in a very different fashion.
The Coen's have been known to reference a few hard-boiled crime writers throughout their films: James M. Cain had a heavy presence in The Man Who Wasn't There and Blood Simple while Raymond Chandler coursed through The Big Lebowski. In this case, it's Dashiell Hammett and, most notably, his novels The Glass Key and Red Harvest that Miller's Crossing references and intertwines.
Set in 1929, Barry Sonnenfeld's rich cinematography is a thing of sumptuous beauty. He captures the time and feel of the 20's to absolute perfection by utilising a very particular gradation of colour in deep red, green and brown hues. This is arguably the Coen's most visually stunning film to date and that's saying something considering the meticulous attention to detail throughout most of their work.
The characters are just as rich. I'm not normally a fan of Gabriel Byrne but at the centre of the labyrinthine plot he delivers a solidly reserved performance as consigliere Tom Reagan, while those around about him have the more colourful, offbeat roles - the kind of which we have now become accustomed to with the Coen's. From Albert Finney's hopelessly romantic kingpin, Leo O'Bannion to (Coen regulars) Jon Polito as his hotheaded nemesis Johnny Caspar, John Turturro's shady bookie, Bernie Bernbaum and his cohort Mink, a small but important Steve Buscemi. All of them deliver memorable work and play like caricatures from the gangster sub-genre. Their dialogue is just as colourful as their characters and the Coen's ability to write snappy, witty lines has never been more present than it is here.
From some corners, the film received criticism for being too self-conscious in its approach. There are metaphoric images of Fedora's tumbling through autumnal forests and hilarious discussions on the "ethics" of corrupt business but these moments only add to the film's originality and it's ability to carve it's own niche. Admittedly, there isn't the sense of realism that you'd expect from a gangster film but when the characterisation and pallet are as striking as they are, then it's an approach that's very welcome indeed.
Those who have a particular appreciation for the film-noir's of yesteryear will, no doubt, be the kind of audience that Miller's Crossing will appeal to most. However, those that appreciate smart storytelling while basking in gloriously visual filmmaking will be in safe company too. Miller's Crossing was one of the Coen brothers' earlier works and, to this day, remains one of their best.
Great cast. And they do come through with good performances. Turturro in particular was his usual great self.
Also some nice plot twists, and kept you guessing as to the outcome.
However, it suffers from a fatal flaw. It is inconsistent tonally.
At times the film dips into their trademark, quirky, darkly comic style. (Cases in point: the sounds of explosions and gunshots in the background of one scene, the almost comical number of cops outside of a building, the way that the cops raid some establishments, all done in that exaggeratingly comic style characteristic of the Coens). However, most of the time, it moves along as was is by far the most dramatic of the Coen's films, perhaps, and much more straightforwardly so, taking itself very seriously. This contrasting combination makes it difficult then to take the proceedings -- which are rather overly melodramatic at times as well, and not in that Coen style -- very seriously. It makes for an odd mix.
Perhaps it is also due to casting actors that don't quite fit that Coen style. While talented, the Irishman Bryne and the Brit Finney are playing it straight, and aren't capturing that uniquely American Coen style. But is that what they were going for here? That's the problem: it's unclear.
My response may also reflect my mixed feelings about the gangster genre generally.
I finished it because I was curious as to the fate of the characters. But not because I felt very invested in them, really compelled by it, or was really
entertained by it.
In any case, I was underwhelmed.
A blatant ripoff of Hammett's "The Glass Key" with ham acting and, of course, the execrable Coen's at the helm.
Stick with Alan Ladd's version of :The Glass Key",