Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John
Turturro, Jon Polito, J.E. Freeman, Albert Finney
Director: Joel Coen
Audio: Dolby Digital 4.0, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 115 Minutes
Release Date: May 20, 2003
about what protecting Bernie gets us. Think about what offending Caspar gets
on, Tom. You know I donít like to think.Ē
about whether you should start.Ē
gave us two masterpieces about the gangster underworld, Martin Scorseseís GoodFellas
and the Coen Brothersí Millerís
always knew that the moviemaking team of brothers Joel and Ethan Coen carried
with them a certain level of genius, especially in the realm of dark comedies.
However, nothing couldíve ever prepared me for the much more serious-toned Millerís
Crossing, which is indeed one of their greatest films to date, alongside
their brilliant 1996 piece, Fargo.
What is so captivating about watching this film, especially if youíre a fan of
the gangster genre, is the original visionary style that the Coen Brothers has
given to create the brooding atmosphere of the gangster underworld during the
time of prohibition. Another stroke of genius is the individually memorable
characters in this piece, who arenít entirely likeable, but are a good deal
sympathetic in some regards. There are also vicious characters in the story, and
if you know the Coen Brothers, you know that you will see these kinds of people
in the darkest possible light.
film centers on an ongoing war of power between two rival gangs in 1929, one
Irish and one Italian, and depicts the level of loyalty that is stretched to
great length by a central character. The boss of the town is Leo (Albert
Finney), who has long fought a bitter battle to keep rival hood Johnny Caspar
(Jon Polito) from muscling in on his turf. Although Caspar is desperate to take
over the rackets which Leo controls, he believes highly in ethics of business,
and therefore doesnít stoop to incidents of unnecessary bloodshed, though if
we were ever driven to do such, heíd have his murderous enforcer, The Dane (J.E.
Freeman), to apply such pressure.
in the middle of the war is Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), Leoís longtime right
hand man and associate. Tom is always there to negotiate or settle terms on
Leoís behalf, but he is in the middle of a major predicament, which is being
engaged in a love affair with Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), the same woman who Leo
himself is in love with. Matters are also tense for Tom as he is frequently
having to deal with Vernaís brother, Bernie (John Turturro), a weasel bookie
who is cheating Tom right under his nose. He would gladly wipe out Bernie in a
second, if it werenít for the love he has for his sister.
than a routine movie where two gangs dual it out endlessly, Millerís
Crossing is essentially a character piece, focusing mostly on that of Tom.
After a sudden and brutal falling out with Leo, Tom finds himself switching
sides to Casparís crew, even though The Dane doesnít trust him for a second.
Tom has never killed anybody in his life, and once working for Caspar, heís
put to the test when ordered to wipe out a victim at Millerís Crossing, an
area in the woods where all mob killings are enforced. Itís really Tomís
story, and a journey of the character to see if he has heart, or if he is no
different than a natural killer for business.
seen the Coensí Blood Simple and Fargo,
I find them to be something of pioneers in terms of movie violence, but the
violence in Millerís Crossing is probably as up close and graphic as anything
theyíve done. A rule in this movie addressed by both of the gangs is when you
kill someone, shoot them in the head first, and trust me, they arenít lying.
Such sequences in the film had my lower jaw nearly hitting the floor. It just
goes to show you that the Coen Brothers are all about startling originality, and
the violence in this film is unlike any of what I have seen before.
performances in Millerís Crossing
are of pure masterworks, as displayed in any Coen Brothers film. Gabriel Byrne
is remarkable in his best screen performance prior to The Usual Suspects as Tom. John Turturro, a Coen Brothers regular,
is on fire as the despicable Bernie. He has a scene in the woods of Millerís
Crossing, where he pleads heavily not to be killed, which is a scene of dynamite
acting. There are also small pop-ups from such other Coen regulars as Steve
Buscemi and Frances McDormand.
line, this is a brilliant and beautiful film by one of our most original
filmmaking teams. Millerís Crossing
is by far one the Coen Brothersí most outstanding films, and it deserves to be
seen by any fan of theirs, as well as revisited by those who admire this film as
much as I do.
was so excited to hear this film was finally making it to DVD, and Fox has
exceeded my expectations of quality with an astounding video transfer. The
visual look to the film is a key factor, as Barry Sonnenfeldís unique camera
work openly demonstrates, and the anamorphic picture embraces this notion
throughout the presentation. Image clarity is as incredible as you could ever
hope for, especially one that happens to be from 13 years ago. No picture flaws
at all, even in the sequences which are shot in much darker set pieces. Quite
simply a remarkable job well done.
first I was a bit skeptic at the notion of 4.0 audio mix, but right from the
opening credit sequence, backed up by Carter Burwellís hauntingly beautiful
score, the sound mix proved to be a whole lot more than I expected it to be.
While it should be noted that you shouldnít expect any level of dynamic range,
as most of the action emerges from the front area, the sound mix manages to add
a dose of power, especially in sequences of violence and shootouts, with a
strong sense of projection from the side speakers. Dialogue delivery, in
addition, is perfectly sharp and clear.
on this disc is a interview session with cinematographer Barry Sonennfeld, who
recounts his experience shooting Millerís
Crossing, as well as how what led to his first collaboration with the Coens.
Also included are interview sound bites with Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden,
and John Turturro, a still gallery, and trailers for this, as well as Barton
Fink and Raising Arizona.