A definitive gangster movie, "Miller's Crossing" is just enjoyable to sit and gaze at repeatedly. The cinematography is amazing, but the story of a gangster who plays both sides is priceless.
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Producers: Ethan Coen
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Features: Anamorphic Widescreen Format (1.85:1 Aspect Ratio); Audio: English Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround, French 2.0 Surround, Spanish 2.0 Stereo; Subtitles: Spanish, English; Barry Sonnenfeld Featurette; Cast Interviews with Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, and John Turturro; Still Gallery; Theatrical Trailers
Tom Reagan - Gabriel Byrne
Leo - Albert Finney
Johnny Caspar - Jon Polito
Verna - Marcia Gay Harden
Eddie Dane - J.E. Freeman
Bernie Bernbaum - John Turturro
Mink - Steve Buscemi
I have come to think that the Coen Brothers will go down in history as some of the best directors in film history. Every film they have made has been pure dynamite, though I wasn't too crazy about "The Hudsucker Proxy." Their storylines are ingenious, and the scripts are riddled with quotables. None are more cinematic than "Miller's Crossing," as the Coens put out an instant classic. A "handsome" movie about tough guys in hats is the premise to this excellent gangster film.
The DVD also has some nice features included, though I would have loved to hear a commentary track. Instead, we hear behind-the-scenes information from the Director of Photography Barry Sonnenfeld, which is very informative. He pointed out things in the film that I was totally unaware of while watching the movie. Also, there are some Cast Interviews with Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, and John Turturro which are fairly short, but still worth viewing. Gabriel Byrne has the most spots, and I thought, the most interesting dialogue. There was also a measly still gallery with some behind-the-scenes shots, but the resolution wasn't very good, and there weren't many frames. In addition, the disc has some theatrical trailers of Coen Bros. films "Barton Fink," "Miller's Crossing," and "Raising Arizona."
The picture's transfer was actually very clear, though there are some noticeable artifacts on the print. Detail is nice, but the colors sometimes waver from faded to clear depending on the scene. But overall, the picture came out quite well. The sound was in Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround, which made the audio very "front heavy." Nevertheless, the dialogue was clear, and the rear channel provided ambient sound when necessary. I would have preferred a 5.1 track, which would have added more bass to the explosions and soundtrack, and possibly made it more dynamic. However, the Dolby Digital 4.0 sound performs its job adequately.
"Miller's Crossing" involves Tom Reagan (Byrne - "Usual Suspects"), a trusted advisor and right hand man to an Irish Prohibition gangster boss named Leo (Finney - "Erin Brockovich"). Tensions rise when a local Italian boss named Johnny Caspar (Polito - "The Big Lebowski") challenges Leo's authority over a small time crook, named Bernie Bernbaum (Turturro - "Barton Fink"). Bernie was messing up Caspar's fixed fights, and so Caspar wanted to kill him. Leo refused to allow it, even when Tom suggested that it was better than having a gangster war.
Further complicating matters is Tom's relationship with Leo's girlfriend Verna (Harden - "Pollock"). Tom is upset that Leo is falling for Verna, because he sees her as a grifter, only being with Leo to protect Bernie. But despite this, he is having an affair with Verna behind Leo's back. When the war starts, Tom will be forced to choose which side he is on, as loyalties switch back and forth, and he finds himself getting mired deeper and deeper in the gangster struggle for power. Add in a Caspar's dangerous henchmen, Eddie Dane (Freeman - "Go"), and Tom will be lucky to make it out of this mess with his life.
I was extremely impressed with this movie, and I was very close to giving it my rare five star rating. It is nearly flawless, but somehow, I felt that it could have gone a bit further. The performances are all spectacular, with Finney giving a knockout performance, and Byrne carrying this movie effortlessly with his convincing portrayal of Tom Reagan. I will give this film four and a half stars out of five, and say that it is a close five star rating. The cinematographer is superb, with amazing wide angle shots that give this movie a timeless feel to it. The soundtrack has some excellent music, and you might think of getting the CD, it's that good. "Miller's Crossing" really is worth owning, though I hope that they come out with a better disc in the future. Maybe the Coens have a box set in their future. I know I would purchase that in a heartbeat. Until then, go get "Miller's Crossing, and add it to your collection.