• James Rutherford

'Miller’s Crossing': A Spirited Prohibition-era Gangster Film from the Venerable Coen Brothers


Movie poster for the film Miller’s Crossing starring Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney and John Turturro

Written and directed by the venerable Coen Brothers ("Fargo", "The Big Lebowski"),, “Miller’s Crossing” (1990) is a spirited Prohibition-era gangster film starring Gabriel Byrne as Tom Reagan, hard-nosed enforcer for Irish mob boss and political chieftain Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney).


The storyline follows Reagan’s attempts to protect a cagy bookie named Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro), the brother of Reagan’s lover (and Leo’s girlfriend) Vera (Marcia Gay Harden), who has been targeted by rival Italian mob boss Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito). Tom is soon entangled in a war between Leo and Johnny, working both sides in a complicated series of confrontations and double-crosses.


A dense and pulpy throwback to mob films of yore, “Miller’s Crossing” is a refreshingly engaging and wryly humorous take on the genre. Brandishing the Coen’s trademark elements of dark comedy and jolting violence, the film imagines a seedy world of yesteryear replete with pomp and gamesmanship—and delivers a twistedly enjoyable nod to the early years of cinema.

 

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