Miller's Crossing

November 14, 2009
I've been meaning to watch this film for awhile now, which is the Coen brothers' attempt at a gangster movie along the lines of Goodfellas or The Godfather series. Though Miller's Crossing isn't nearly as good as either of those two films, it does succeed at being a tense and interesting watch.

The film revolves around two gangs in Prohibition-era America, one being run by the Irish mafia and the other the Italian. Our main character, Tom Reagan, though, isn't exactly loyal to either, playing off each group for his own wants and needs. If you've seen Yojimbo or A Fistful of Dollars, then you've probably got the right idea of how this will end. However, the film pulls off the concept well, with both sides having eccentric and interesting figures.

Our main character is kind of standard-fare, in terms of mafia films. Gruff, manipulative, cunning, etc and so on. This isn't to say that he isn't a good character, but he felt pretty underwhelmed when put together with characters like Bernie, Leo, or Caspar.

While Tom Reagen, our main character, may disappoint a little, I highly enjoyed the supporting cast of this film, who seem to really bring alive those energetic characters that make a good gangster film. John Turturro, who would later star in the Coen brothers' film Barton Fink, did an excellent performance as Bernie, a homosexual mobster who, after selling out tips, is wanted dead by the Italian mafia. However, since Leo - head of the Irish mob - is dating Bernie's sister, the Irish mob can't allow the Italians to take the man out. This, in turn, leads to the major gang war of the film that serves as one of the primary conflicts.

One notable complaint about movie is how hard it tries to be a gangster epic, like the other films I mentioned earlier in the article. It attempts to do this by confusing us with a film that basically has no introduction. At the very beginning of the movie, we're given large amounts of dialogue between some of the characters, all referencing characters and relationships we know nothing about. This is frustrating in that it takes a good 30 minutes or so before we put names to the faces of the major players of the movie.

Once we grasp a hold of the plot, though, the film becomes much more enjoyable. The dialogue's crisp and sharp, the camera shots of the film subtly noir, and the dramatic scenes leaving us hooked for more. One particular memorable scene of the film is the attempted assassination of Leo, the head of the Irish mob. I won't give too much away, but I'll just say that the attempt is botched, leaving us to watch with guilty pleasure the violence that ensues. Tommyguns are flaring, cars are crashing, people are getting shot up like crazy, and all to the soothing tune of "O, Danny Boy".

While the mafia and gangster aspects of the film felt forced, the characters are still the center of this story. It's not exactly a prime example of a Coen brothers' movie, but there's definitely a lot to admire in Miller's Crossing.

7/10 - Good

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