“I never met anybody who made being a son-of-a-bitch such a point of pride.”
To know “Miller’s Crossing” is to love “Miller’s Crossing,” (and I do and I do and I do) or so I’ve gathered. The problem is that the it’s probably the Coen’s most under-appreciated film. Early in their careers, they made a nearly perfectly designed period piece with sweeping set pieces, mostly great performances, and more one-liners than most of their other films combined.
“What’s the rumpus?”
“Miller’s Crossing” follows the story of Tom Ragan (Gabriel Byrne) as he works for a crime boss in the 1920’s. The most interesting story in the film, however, is the romance between Tom and Verna (Marcia Gay Harden). Tom is arguably the Coen’s most cynical protagonist, which is why it is fascinating to see him fall for Verna early in the film. He is heartless and many characters attest to this. His detached yet somehow magnetic performance is really what drives this film. Well, that and the insane plot.
The Coen’s stalwart commitment to style and genre creates an unlikely atmosphere that we’ve barely seen since 1990. Fresh off the critical success of “Raising Arizona”, they doubled their budget and dove headfirst into the period design for this film.
Perhaps this one is mostly style. They seem pretty proud of the top-hats and police raids they were able to create. The characters can slide out of the way during the major set-pieces, but Bernie (John Turturro) falling to his knees and begging for his life is a sight I won’t soon expel from my mind.
A Few Notes:
- We get a first look at Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, and Jon Polito in their Coen Brother uniforms here, with a Frances McDormand cameo of course.
- This is mostly a reappraisal. This had been one of my least favorites in their body of work but now it sits somewhere in the middle.
- Albert Finney is absolutely fantastic here.