IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH THE COEN BROTHERS REVIEW: “Miller’s Crossing” stars Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects, In Treatment [TV series]), Marcia Gay Harden (Into the Wild, The Mist), Albert Finney (The Bourne Ultimatum, Big Fish), Jon Polito (The Man Who Wasn’t There, The Big Lebowski), J.E. Freeman (Wild at Heart, Patriot Games), Mike Starr (Goodfellas, Dumb & Dumber), John Turturro (Transformers , Barton Fink), and Steve Buscemi (Monsters Inc., Reservoir Dogs). It is written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen (both wrote and directed Intolerable Cruelty, A Serious Man). When mob boss Johnny Casper (Polito) suspects that someone by the name of Bernie Bernbaum (Turturro) is ruining his business of fixing games for profit by leaking out the names of the winners he is choosing, he wants him dead. He goes to his rival gang’s boss, Leo (Finney), to take his protection off of Bernie to do so, but when Leo refuses, a war looks to be on the horizon. Leo’s right hand man and friend, Tom Reagan (Byrne), suspects this, and takes it upon himself to settle things before they get too out of hand.
The more years that go by, the more experience gained. In this film, I can tell that the Coen brothers are becoming the well-oiled filmmaking machines that they are today. The previous two movies I watched were good and entertaining, but now we are trudging into a deeper, darker, more detailed side of pictures, and it’s great! The problems I discovered in “Blood Simple” and “Raising Arizona” all fell into their stories, scripts either having plot holes or outrageous things that pull away from the real world. In “Miller’s Crossing,” I was hoping for a stronger script that would pave a way for an even stronger narrative, and that’s what I got. The first thing I found to be grand about this flick is the time setting. The clothes, the cars, the mob. All elements that I enjoy, and yet it’s not what this movie focuses on, which helped. This is an in-the-moment kind of release where it doesn’t matter what time setting they are in because you are more focused on the conflict, which I found fascinating. For once I wasn’t studying the location around the characters in a period piece, but the story instead. The story itself, well, I would say it’s great. Something the Coens love to do when writing is thrust you into a dilemma, and that’s what they did here. It’s a mob war of sorts, without even focusing on the mob, but rather one man. I liked how the film was seen through Reagan’s eyes. It gives us more mystery as well as a character to trust and connect to. The other characters in this were fantastic as well as the acting. It really showed how the mob and every one connected to it are filthy, and the acting boasted this. At times it even gave way to laughter, like how serious Leo was when people came to his house. The fact that he would overpower all of them was crazy to see. There were quite a bit of memorable scenes in this, the number one being the chilling scene at Miller’s Crossing, which gives the title to this film. Just seeing Reagan take Bernie out to the woods was hard to watch, even if I could predict the outcome towards the end of the scene. Of course, the directing was phenomenal, and I loved watching this movie just for the camera shots alone. This picture had an elegance to it outside of the dirt of the mob, something that film lovers can respect. Looking at the issues, I would say the first one that comes to mind is how it can drag. This is a longer movie than the previous two I have reviewed, but it hasn’t cracked the two-hour mark. It still can be slow in some scenes though, especially the first act. Another con I have would be the musical score. Although it is a nice score to listen to, it doesn’t really fit with the situations it portrays. It is more light-hearted and dramatic when it should be tense and thrilling. Finally, my last con would be Steve Buscemi. I’m not hating on the guy, but his existence in the flick didn’t really need to happen. It was more of a “put a face to a character” kind of thing. He was only in the movie for one scene as the character Mink, but his name lasted longer in this picture than his appearance. To be honest, I didn’t even know that he was Mink until I saw the cast list at the end. They may have said his character’s name when he was there though. I thought that this was a terrific film that is a huge step up from their previous releases. It may be a little rough around the edges sometimes, but at the same time it has a sleekness. I enjoyed this movie overall, and I recommend anyone to check it out! FINAL SCORE: 90%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: