D.J. Haza presents the next entry in his series of films to watch before you die…
Miller’s Crossing, 1990.
Written and Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
Starring Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, Jon Polito and Steve Buscemi.
Miller’s Crossing is the prohibition-era gangster film from the Coen brothers that centres around a war between two rival gangs vying for control of the city, with Tom Reagan (Byrne) finding himself stuck in the middle trying to play both sides in order for him to come out on top.
Tom has been a confidant of Irish American political boss and mob leader Leo O’Bannon (Finney) for many years and works as his right hand man. Leo goes against Tom’s advice by offering protection to Bernie Bernbaum (Turturro) in light of Leo’s rival Johnny Caspar (Polito) gunning for the slippery bookie Bernie. Leo’s reasons for doing so are that Bernie is the brother of his longtime girlfriend Verna (Harden).
Caspar and Leo go to war over Bernie and the peace is broken in the city. Tom attempts to reinstate peace by convincing Leo and Verna to give up Bernie, but neither will see sense. When it comes to light that Tom has been having an affair with Verna, Leo gives him a beating and throws him out on his backside. With no other options, Tom goes to work for Caspar and is immediately given the task of killing Bernie. As Tom tries to play both sides and return the city to its peaceful status quo he is double crossed by Bernie, but he in turn double crosses Caspar and in doing so ends the war and regains his position under Leo.
Miller’s Crossing is a slow and stylish gangster film with all the usual characteristics of a Coen brothers film, as they borrow influences from a range of classic gangster films and film noir. Miller’s Crossing is a film you must see before you die as it is possibly one of the finest films made by the Coen brothers – not an easy thing to claim with such an impressive back catalogue of work.