115 Min | Crime – Drama – Thriller | December 1990
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro
Miller’s Crossing Review: Is it really a stretch to claim that Millers Crossing is the Coens’ greatest film? Not if you are judging it on technical merit. The acting, screen writing, cinematography and direction are at near perfection. The setting is prohibition-era, big city America and thats all we know, and all we need to know, this movie isn’t about history. Millers Crossing is a film that explores themes like power, loyalty and trust. The plot is rather intricate for a gangster movie and the first time you view it you aren’t exactly sure just what happened. This is not a complaint about the film, but really more of a compliment. Many film classics through the years can leave you confused if you really dissect them afterwords.
The story of Millers Crossing revolves around the central character Tommy (Gabriel Byrne), who is the right hand man to mob boss Leo (Albert Finney). It seems a rival named Johnny Casper (Jon Polito) is about to start a war over a two-bit bookie named Bernie (John Turturro) and Leo has decided to protect Bernie as Leo is currently seeing Bernies sister Verna (Marcia Gay Harden). Casper is not at all happy about this and neither is Tommy and he tries to warn Leo but Leo is smitten and vows to protect his lover’s brother. This is where things start to get murky, whose really loyal to who, and why? Leo controls everything in the city but when he narrowly survives assassination, he suddenly starts to lose grip of his power. At one point a cautious Tommy tries talking sense into over-confident Leo with the memorable line “you run this town because people think you run it, if they stop thinking it, you stop running it”.
I would have to agree that the best scenes of the film are Leo and the “danny boy” scene and the title scene. Bernies little ride out to Millers crossing. John Turturro is astounding in this scene, but I hate to single out any one actor in Millers Crossing because the whole cast is absolutely perfect. This brings me to my favorite part which is the climactic scene at Caspers house. Casper of course leaves us with the immortal words, something he tells all his boys, “always put one in the brain”. Gotta love it, and yes it was overshadowed by goodfellas and other films when it was released, but like fine wine the classics always age well and if you’ve never seen Millers Crossing i envy you, because you get the sheer joy of seeing a perfect film for the first time.