Miller's Crossing (1990)
Genre: Gangster Crime Drama Thriller
Starring: Gabriel Byrne (Stigmata; The Usual Suspects), Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock; Mystic River)
Directed By: The Coen (Ethan and Joel) Brothers (Barton Fink; The Big Lebowski)
Overview: Tom Regan plays consigliere to the town Mob Boss. When his warnings fall on deaf ears, he finds himself in the middle of a war, wondering where his loyalties should lie.
Acting: The cast is not only full of people who are in tremendous films, but they're people who have all worked several times with the Coen Brothers. What that means is that the brothers wrote the parts for the actors themselves, tailoring the role for the man, if you will. Some might say the actor's job is to be the character, but 'play what you know' works really well here. I'll predict that the Dane is your favorite character too.
Cinematography: The scenes over at Miller's Crossing, meditative yet nerve-wracking are captivating, as are the action sequences and the shootouts. More than one scene has over a dozen of those black 20s Fords with cops all firing their guns at a little storefront, really memorable stuff. The other murder and assault scenes are graphic, highly realistic, coming close to the Film Noir and Gangster Flic cliches, but never going overboard. The brothers carve their own path, keeping everything original.
Script: There was too much dialogue. Too much 'men sitting across from each other with a huge oak desk between them'. Yes, there's action and intrigue but I found that some scenes went on longer than they had to just for the sake of showing off the writing skills of the Coen brothers. The dialogue is great, ripe with mobster street lingo, but I found the yacking to go on just a tad too much, as interesting as the overall story was.
Plot: The story is fairly complex. Not anywhere near the Syriana-level hard to understand, but pretty deep politics run through this one. It's a roller-coaster of twists and turns and that's what you'll like the most. I'm watching the opening scene thinking this is the normal everyday situation that our mob boss runs into and the real story is going to be about some skirt, but to think that we jump right into the elaborate plot right away makes for a good long exploration of the true undercurrent of the situation unfolding, not to mention all the murder and mayhem to boot.
Mood: The roaring 20s! Tommy guns, mob lingo, and oak craftsmanship everywhere. This doesn't look like a modern movie, it's so engrossing that you lose yourself in the era, and the dialogue is constant 20s kitsch. Ad a few dirty Irish cops on the take and some double-crossed double-crosses and you have yourself quite the tall tale.
Overall Rating: 82% (Just ONCE could you NOT put a PUN here?)
Aftertaste: The Coen Brothers. I just don't know. Everyone tells me how great they are and I know their professionalism and budgets are of a superb quality, but there's just something about some of their stories, like this one and O Brother, Where Art Thou? that's hit and miss sometimes. I've seen most of their works and I'd say that I loved 60% of them. These guys have quite the knack for creating films with mixed reviews, but I guess I'll keep watching, in hopes that films of a Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo and The Big Lebowski quality are made again. This one just didn't keep my attention like it should have, good as it was.
One more thing: The best film they've ever made, without a doubt is Barton Fink. See it. It's high art for the masses, it's genius as seen through the eyes of madness.