Miller’s Crossing

Year: 1990
Production Co: Circle Films
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Joel Coen
Producer: Ethan Coen
Writer: Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden, John Polito, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, Michael Jeter
I can understand the appeal this film has but I could never see why it's on such a high pedestal with such a lot of people.

You'll remember it as a gangster film if you haven't seen it in awhile, but if you revisit it fresh the comic book elements will strike you – the noirish approach, the overripe period dialogue, the bursts of operatic violence.

I think it has an inherent pedigree because it's from a holy circle of self-referencing artists who seem to form the atomic-level particles of unshakeable Campbell-like literary kernels, from Dashiell Hammet and H P Lovecraft to Akira Kurosawa and Fritz Lang.

A classic tale of star cross'd lovers is the lynchpin for the whole mess. Prohibition-era Mob boss Leo (Finney) has second rate bookie Caspar (Polito) asking for permission to rub out the fast-talking con Bernbaum (Turturro), but Leo is blindly in love with Bernbaum's sister Verna (Harden, channelling a thousand brassy Ditreich-like noir dames) and has promised her he'll protect her loser brother.

His conscience/consigliore Tom (Byrne) tries to talk sense into his boss – for the sake of one small time Jewish grifter, Leo's risking a war with Caspar neither the city nor their interests can withstand. Even worse, Tom himself is involved with Verna behind Leo's back, and when the rift causes him to split from his boss, there are knives out on every side aiming for his back.

It's a classic set-up upon which the Coens hang some of the most inspired set dressing, made-for-movies dialogue ('take your flunky and dangle') and memorable set pieces ever in a gangster film. Motifs like the dream about the man chasing his hat are just so much high-falutin' Lynchisms, but the quality shines through any stumbled abstractions.

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