By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
As the number two man in his organization, Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) serves as a strategy advisor to Leo (Albert Finney), the mob boss who controls the city. Tom is always in debt due to a gambling problem, but his head for strategy keeps him valuable to Leo’s organization. Leo is smitten by Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), who is dating him in order to keep her brother Bernie (John Turturro) under Leo’s protection. When Gangster Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) approaches Leo about putting a hit out on Bernie, Leo balks, insulting Johnny in the process.
Don’t fuck with a manicured mustachio man
And when Leo finds out that Tom has been dating Verna on the side, he throws him out. Without his close confidant for support, Leo creates a power vacuum, igniting a mob war citywide.
The Coen Brother’s third film may not be well remembered as Raising Arizona, or as gritty as Blood Simple, but in many ways it was the film which would most closely define the rest of their career.
Now that’s what I call style!
Gabriel Byrne has never had a better role than as the quick-thinking Tom Reagan. Tom is a complex character who is adept at manipulation and navigating the cut-throat (literally) bureaucracy and politics of the Mob, but between his gambling addiction and dating the boss’ girlfriend, he cannot get his head around his personal life. Even as he torpedoes himself, though, he manages to rebuild his reputation just as fast. Jon Polito is fantastic as Johnny Caspar, a powerful gangster obsessed with business ethics. The rest of the cast is stellar as well; there isn’t a weak link here.
Visually, the Coens have seldom done better. Working with cinematographer (and future director) Barry Sonnenfeld, the camera in Miller’s Crossing is used to comment on each scene, often with surreal results. This is complemented by a solid score from longtime collaborator Carter Burwell, a composer who the Academy sees fit to ignore every year. Say what you will about their visual style, the Coen brothers have never made a boring film, and there is no filler in this one.
One of my top 10 favorite Gangster films of all time. See it!
Take a Drink: when Johnny Casper mentions Ethics
Take a Drink: when any character drinks
Do a Shot: for use of Yiddish