When you think of great mob movies, the names Coppola, De Niro, Pesci, Pacino and Scorcese come to mind. You certainly don't think of Joel and Ethan Coen. However, you should. While the Coen brothers have created some of the best comedies of the last 10-15 years (Fargo, Raising Arizona, Hudsucker Proxy), Miller's Crossing may be one of their best films.
Set during the prohibition period of American history, the film tells the fictional tale of a Mafia war between the Irish mob and the Italian mob in a Chicago-like eastern town. The war starts when Italian mob leader Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) goes to Irish mob leader Leo (Albert Finney) to inform him about a crooked bookie, Bernie (John Turturro). Johnny wants to kill Bernie because he has been leaking information on fixed fights. This won't stand with the mob kingpin, but Leo will not allow the retaliation.
It turns out that Bernie is the brother of Leo's lady, Verna (Marcia Gay Harden). Leo's right hand man, Tommy (Gabriel Byrne), doesn't think Bernie is worth protecting, but Leo isn't thinking with his head. Soon after, one of Johnny's men is killed and the war breaks out.
Will Johnny kill Bernie? Who will win the war, Leo or Johnny? What will Leo do when he finds out that Tommy is fooling around with Verna?
Once again, Joel and Ethan Coen have created a fantastic, complex and thrilling story. Even if you don't like mob movies, the personal stories and characters are fascinating on their own. The audience must pay attention to every minor detail because they lead to a better understanding of the plot.
Gabriel Byrne shows why he is one of the best actors around. His character is severely conflicted between his admiration for Leo and his love for Verna. He wants to avoid a major confrontation with Johnny, but realizes his job is to support Leo even though he feels a great deal of guilt over the illicit affair.
The supporting characters add great depth to the film. Albert Finney is simply one of the greatest actors ever. He creates a strong, tough guy you don't want to run into in a dark alley. John Turturro is fantastic as the weasely, conniving and weak Bernie and J.E. Freeman is somehow able to step above the entire cast to create the most memorable and menacing character, Eddie Dane. This collection of tough guys rivals any Godfather crew. Check it out this weekend.
Directed by Joel Coen
Written by Ethan and Joel Coen
Gabriel Byrne .. Tommy Reagan
Albert Finney .. Leo
Marcia Gay Harden . Verna
John Turturro .. Bernie
Jon Polito Johnny Caspar
J.E. Freeman Eddie Dane
Steve Buscemi . Mink
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