Miller's Crossing (1990) Poster

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10/10
The Jewel of the Coen Crown
PClark8 July 1999
One of the great undiscovered gems of recent movie history. In my opinion, Miller's crossing is easily the best of the Coen brothers' films, and one of the true classics of American cinema.

On the surface, the story of warring gangsters in 1920's America is one that has been told many times before. But never before has it been handled with such artistry and precision. The (rather violent) action scenes keep the movie going along at a brisk pace, and the camera work is every bit the equal of "Fargo".

I became a lifelong Gabriel Byrne fan as a result of this movie, despite his best efforts to disappoint me since. Byrne's Tom Reagan is a compellingly amoral character, who takes more unchallenged beatings than perhaps anyone in film history. Men beat him up. Women beat him up. Collection men, bookies, gangsters, and even his boss gives him a terrible thrashing, and he hardly lifts a finger in opposition (with one notably humorous exception).

Albert Finney is tremendous as Leo, the local crime boss. His "Danny Boy" scene should go down in film history as one of the greatest pieces ever filmed. Jon Polito is at once absurdly funny and threateningly psychotic as Johnny Caspar, Leo's rival in the turf war. J.E. Freeman, John Turturro, and Marcia Gay Harden all lend strong support in a cast that was assembled and performs to near perfection.

I will never understand why this film has not received more recognition and acclaim. As an example of the modern style of Film Noir, it has no equals ("The Usual Suspects" would rate a close second). Among gangster films, only "The Godfather" can compete, and "Miller's Crossing" features superior pacing and dialog, although it lacks "The Godfather's" epic proportions. Perhaps someday this film will receive, like "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Touch of Evil", the belated accolades it so richly deserves.
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10/10
The Intellectual's Gangster Film
ams1324 May 2003
"I'm talkin' about friendship. I'm talkin' about character. I'm talkin' about--hell Leo, I ain't embarrassed to use the word--ethics." So Jon Polito, as crime-boss Johnny "Caspar," describes to his overlord, Albert Finney as "Leo," his point of view while seeking permission to kill a double-crossing underling (played by John Turturro) in the opening lines of __Miller's Crossing__. Had the script sought only to explore the power relationship between the two chief mobsters (one the rising Italian, the other the diminishing Irishman), this would have been a very good gangster film. It portrays an earlier era in the nation's history of organized crime (perhaps Chicago in the late '20s), and one can imagine Leo as the Irish predecessor of __The Godfather__'s Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando).

Just as __The Godfather__ was really about family relationships and the ethical complexities arising when familial loyalty collides with the business of violence, however, __Miller's Crossing__ is actually about, as Caspar tells us, friendship and character put under the enormous strain of that same business of violence. The film, therefore, centers on Leo's trusted adviser Tom (played flawlessly by the Irish actor Gabriel Byrne). Tom is not a gunsel, but the brain behind Leo's muscle. His decisions carry life and death consequences, however, and we watch him try to live with himself, to preserve his character, as he works out a code that will help him and his friends survive brutally violent upheavals. Critics of the film have cited its graphic cruelty and the seeming coldness of its characters, yet these are essential features in developing the film's theme.

Sentimentality might get any of the major characters killed, and one notes the pathos and dark humor that underline an ironic distance that each character, especially Tom, cultivates as a tool for survival.

Clues abound as we wonder what Tom will do next. Follow, for example, the men's hats over the course of the film. Who "keeps his lid on," so to speak, and who loses his? Note the number of times characters exclaim "Jesus!" or "Damn!" when saying the name "Tom." What has he sacrificed? Has he damned himself?

Spectacular action sequences, beautiful production values, top-notch camera work by Barry Sonnenfeld, a haunting musical score, and the best dialogue ever written by the Coen brothers make this a great gangster film. The fascinating and complex theme of friendship, character, and ethics make it one of the great films from any genre.
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10/10
Awesome
teigeng13 November 2005
I was blown away by this film the first time I saw it. After giving myself a couple hours to shake off my dumbfounding amazement, I became addicted. This film has everything. It's witty in its dialogue, suspenseful in its action and violence, beautiful in its cinematography, and (being so like the Coen brothers) it can make you laugh and cringe in the same scene.

The script is superb. The characters are absorbing and the dialogue (as some reviewers have already observed) flows like words in a book. You have to watch some scenes more than once to totally get what's going on, and even then you still might miss something.

The acting is top-notch, even down to the lowest thug. Gabriel Byrne plays the antihero Tom to lonely perfection and Marcia Gay Harden's hooker without a golden heart is excellent. The rest of the cast is great as well, including good mobster Albert Finney and a funny cameo by Steven Buscemi. However, the show is stolen threefold by Jon Polito as the erratic Italian underboss Johnny Caspar, John Tuturro as the slimy "schmatta" Bernie Bernbaum and J.E. Freeman as Caspar's dark, vicious adviser/thug Eddie Dane. Jon Polito's monologue in the very beginning on ethics and Tuturro's desperate pleas at Miller's Crossing are both powerful scenes, and Freeman commands the screen whenever he is on.

My rating is a 10/10. The best part about this movie is that it gets better and better every time you watch it. Oh yeah...the Danny Boy scene is reason enough to watch this movie anyway.
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10/10
this movie is splendid, magnificent, unique: don't miss it
pzanardo30 August 2000
In my opinion, "Miller's crossing" is by far the top work of the Coen brothers, and one of the best movies in the history of cinema. The huge Coens' talent being now fully recognized, I hope that this masterpiece will get the credit it deserves.

The plot deals with the war between Irish and Italian gangsters, caused by the Jewish crook Bernie (the Coens like to joke with the rivalry of different ethnic groups). The crook's affectionate sister Verna is the mistress of Leo O' Bannion, the boss of the Irish gang, who consequently opposes to have him killed by the Italians. But Tom Reagan, the old mate and factotum of O' Bannion, has different plans... The story is extremely interesting, exciting, entertaining. There are no flaws in the development of the plot, despite its complications (a homage to the intricate classic film-noirs of the Golden Age). The script is sharp, cynical, sarcastic, full of memorable lines and of black sense of humor, with many delightful subtleties: the celebrated Coens' wit at its best. The photography is magnificent and very original. The music is great. The action scenes are superbly filmed: violence explodes suddenly and unexpectedly. The finale is perfect and splendidly crowns the movie.

Tom Reagan, played by Gabriel Byrne, is one of the most memorable characters I have seen on the screen. A gangster who tries to use intelligence instead of violence (with alternate success), following a peculiar moral code. Cynical but devoted to friendship. A systematic liar, but capable of generosity. Despite his skills, he is not ambitious, he prefer to be subject to a big-shot. And then, with all his smartness, he strangely chooses to destroy himself with alcohol and gambling. A magnificent psychological design. With this sober, brilliant, subtle performance, worth of a Bogart in great shape, Byrne just shows that he is the best actor in the world (my opinion, of course).

The aged Irish boss O' Bannion - Albert Finney is the opposite of Reagan: naive, sometimes dumb, with a strong love and childish attachment for his girl-friend, he is confident only in his own charisma and in brutal force. Speaking of brutal force, he will show in a gun-fight that he's still the number one, in spite of years passing (incidentally: this is one of the best action scenes I've ever seen).

Also the other characters are shaped with outstanding intelligence and care, from the main ones (Bernie, his sister, the Italian boss, his right-hand Dane) to the last of the thugs. The whole cast is fantastic: Finney, Turturro, Marcia Gay Hayden, Polito, Freeman and all the other excellent supporting actors. A special mention for the scaring gangster Eddie Dane - J.E. Freeman: he really makes you shriver. Turturro is a bit histrionic for my taste, but this is his style of acting, suited for the role of the crook, mean and coward, but cunning and dangerous as a snake.

To summarize, in "Miller's Crossing" fun, drama, action, suspense, mystery are masterly blended with deeper themes such as love, friendship and human loneliness. This movie is splendid, magnificent, unique, don't miss it.
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masterpiece
meisterpuck18 March 2001
In my modest opinion, this film is the Coen's greatest achievement to date, even greater than Fargo. I was happy to see so many recent entries on this page, because that means something I predicted long ago is coming true: film buffs are finally "discovering" Miller's Crossing, an underground masterpiece that has dwelt in obscurity for ten years.

The central motif of the hat, and Johnny Caspar's preoccupation with the altitude thereof, brings to mind another underrated masterpiece, Drugstore Cowboy. The complex Jungian symbolism of forests, doors and especially hats is my favorite aspect of the film.

The only criticism I've heard of this film (and I think it's B.S.) has to do with the "over-acting"--a criticism that has been directed at more than one Coen film. Admittedly, Coen screenplays read more like novels than movie scripts and are not always actor-friendly. Gabriel Byrne, who appears in all but two scenes, does a great job playing an extremely complicated character. Tom Reagan is a smart guy surrounded by morons, and exists in a scenario where only muscle counts and brains don't. And he hates it. And he hates himself because he knows he's all brains and no heart. He tries to redeem himself through a selfless devotion to Leo, whom he hates. All this makes for an immensely challenging part, and the film could easily have fallen apart with a lesser actor than Gabriel Byrne playing the lead.

But the acting is great from top to bottom: Marcia Gay Harden (in her big screen debut) as the hard-boiled moll; Jon Polito as the maniacal Johnny Caspar; Steve Buscemi as the hop-addicted Mink; J.E. Freeman, who is such a marvellous screen villain you have to wonder why he's still toiling in obscurity; and Albert Finney, an actor who embodies the term "screen presence." But the Grand Prix goes to John Turturro, who carries the most powerful scene in the movie: when Tom takes Bernie out to Miller's Crossing to "whack" him.

Another criticism frequently levelled against the Coens is that they are preoccupied with "scenes" and don't focus enough on plot coherence. This too is an invalid criticism, as far as I'm concerned. Some people are irritated by a film that you have to watch a couple times to fully understand, but that's precisely the kind of film that I love, and that's why I love Miller's Crossing so much. Every time I see it I pick up on something that I didn't catch before.

Speaking of "scenes", the "Danny Boy" scene is the best. The second best is the following scene, where Tom and Terry walk through a hallway lined with goons. The third is the police raid on the Sons of Erin Club, in which Leo takes on the entire police force.

I'll resist the temptation to call Miller's Crossing "The Greatest Film of All Time"--because who has the right to say that? But I must say that it is my favorite film of all time.
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10/10
what's the rumpus? this movie is one of the greatest
ghe-21 January 2006
This is for those who have seen the movie and given it the high hat.

"For a sheeny he's got a lot of good qualities." I'm watching the film AGAIN now and this gem just popped up. Any piece of dialog would make my quote book. This ain't no review. It's a response. First, seeing this as a gangster movie is like seeing Blade Runner as a sci-fi flick. Second, seeing this as film noir, with Tom as the typical anti-hero shows that we have to classify every film by the terms we are comfortable with. Finally, Tom is one of the most complex characters I've seen in film. Why? Because he's real. It reminds me a bit of the American Splendor comics and film where Pekar don't have to give a happy ending, a sad ending, clear symbolism, a strong message. Just a story even if it does not "fit" into what we expect from books, films, magazines, etc. Tom is one of my favorite characters and I still don't understand him and neither do you. This along with everything people have commented on (dialog, editing, characters, etc.) make the film in my opinion one of THE greatest films period. What makes Godfather better? Brando's tired speeches? This is a flick you can watch over and over and I stand by those who respect the genius of this film. So take ya flunkie and dangle and again- this paragraph is for those who give the high hat to Tom, the most conflicted and realistic personage in any film I've seen. Will you watch Tom with amazement or try to analyze his motivation based on film stereotypes? Let's get stinko.
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10/10
A Must-See For Any Lover of The Cinema
clevertwist3126 June 2001
There are very few films that engulf the viewer and demand them to give their full attention. This is one of those rarities. While viewing this film one finds themselves sharing the same space and breathing the same air that the characters do. It's beautiful. It's the stuff of great story-telling.

I must admit, I am a great fan of Gabriel Byrne in anything, no matter what it is, so maybe I'm jaded. And as I have seen practically everything with him in it, I must say it is refreshing to see him work with an amazing cast and script to back up his talent.

And the music is terrific. How ironic to have "Danny Boy"-a sentimental grandparents' favorite- playing while machine guns are ripping apart mens' flesh. The cinematography is superb also. Not only do the characters speak in a language rich with visuals, they live in a moving painting.

This was one of those films where I watched all the way through the credits slack-jawed and was sad to see the film end. It's that good. I'm not especially a fan of gangster films but I am willing to make exceptions and Miller's Crossing is one of them.
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The best Coens' movie, bar none.
innocuous30 August 2003
There are many new movies that have been released on DVD this year. Forget them, and pick up a copy of this movie. It has only recently become available on DVD. The unavailability of this movie on DVD for so many years has been a sin. I own this movie on laser disc and it is one of the reasons that I still have a laser disc player.

I cannot do a better job than the other reviewers have in pointing out what make this film so outstanding. Just let me repeat the usual: The casting is flawless; the dialogue is on the mark, with dozens of juicy bon mots; the humor is sublime; the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous; and the plot, while complex, is still comprehensible enough not to detract from the action.

This movie is as close to flawless as a movie can be.

And one more thing, this movie has nothing in common with either "Yojimbo" (which was itself a rip-off of Dashiel Hammett's "Red Harvest") or "Fistful of Dollars". Well, OK, I'll grant that they both take place in towns dominated by two strong gangs of criminals (as if that's never been the case in any other movie,) but the other plot elements and the dialogue are completely original.

**** out of ****
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7/10
Miller's Crossing
preston-luther8 June 2013
Miller's Crossing is a film containing characters of the gangster genre occupying a noir-style world. Visually, the film holds up with other Coen Brother films in terms of its style, which includes elaborate set designs, costumes, landscapes, etc. Visually, the film is magnificent and eye-catching.

Where the film falters lies in its dialogue. A staple of Coen Brothers' scripts, particularly their earlier films, involves characters who possess an uncharacteristically sharp tongue and wide vocabulary. Miller's Crossing is no different. Don't get me wrong, the dialogue is well-written, but at times too well-written. Characters speak so fluently in wise-cracking threats that their eloquence undermines their threats. The audience, rather than invest care in the characters, instead marvels at their wit and articulacy. But again, this isn't to say that the dialogue is bad. In fact, most will probably find the characters and dialogue appealing.

The plot does not become apparent until after the credits roll. For the beginning of the film, characters speak swiftly back and forth, referencing off-screen characters nobody in the audience has yet seen. This may lead to some confusion regarding what in tarnation is happening, which subsequently may lead to a lack of emotion or care invested into the story by the viewer(s). Ultimately, Miller's Crossing is one of those films you're going to have consider in retrospect in order to piece it together.

Albert Finney and Jon Polito offer tremendous performances as respective racketeer bosses. Gabriel Byre successfully plays Tom Reagan, a man caught in the middle of the warring mobsters. The wonderfully gifted John Turturro plays the two-timing Bernie Bernbaum. For this role, the Coens couldn't have scripted anyone better than Turturro, who in one instance can seem sputtering and weak 'til the next scene in which he confidently points a gun in someone's face.

Overall, Miller's Crossing is a good film that possesses many reasons to watch it; though ultimately you may find yourself having to watch it again.
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10/10
Best modern gangster file ever....
nuv25 January 2006
This has got to be, hands down, one of the best gangster films ever made, certainly in the last 20 years or so. Better even than Reservoir Dogs, I'd say...which is a great film too, but just not nearly the same caliber as this.

In a nutshell, the whole movie is about loyalty, and the affect it has on Tom Reagan, as well as everyone else around him. Tom is the central character in this story, and we basically get to experience this movie in his shoes (or wearing his hat, which would be a more appropriate analogy, and you'll understand why I say this after watching the film). In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of scenes that Tom Reagan (played masterfully by Gabriel Byrne) does NOT appear in.

I won't go into great detail, because the story is full of subtleties...things that you won't notice even after seeing the movie several times. I think that's why I put it so high in my mind as a work of cinematic art. There has ALWAYS been something new that I discovered upon each viewing that I didn't see before, so the complexities of the story make it vastly more entertaining that, say, Titanic or some other Hollywood schlock that's being peddled in theaters. Which is probably why this film did poorly when it was first released, I didn't even see it until it came out on cable a year later.

The script is truly marvelous, and the snappy dialog hearkens back to the good old days of gangster films from the 30s with great actors such as James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Bogart. In fact, go get the Warner Bros. Gangster Classics Box set before you see this film...it'll give you a better appreciation of this film, in many different ways (the wise-cracks, the over-the-top gun battles, etc.). The only way the Coen Brothers could pay greater homage to the old gangster classics would have been to have filmed Miller's Crossing in black and white...which they didn't need to do anyway, this film just can't be beat in it's set design and imagery.

Oddly enough, there is almost no gratuitous sex in this mildly R-rated film...it's all implied, which is a nice touch given the way most R-rated films just give in to rampant sex and violence, just for the sake of being able to do it. Even the violence (which some posts have alluded to as excessive) just doesn't even compare with what most folks see on screen today...but that just it, the Coen Brothers use sex and violence in a subtle way that enhances (not detracts) from the film. We know more about what people feel about each other rather than just get to see to sweaty bodies going at it in bed. Don't get me wrong, I think sex and violence in adult films is not a bad thing...I just hate it when filmmakers just throw it in as a way of pleasing the crowd, especially when they don't show the consequences of what sex and violence can bring about in our society.

Anyway, I could go on and on...go BUY (not rent) this film, it'll be the best clearance-rack DVD you'll ever own!
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10/10
The Best Mobster Film Evere Made, bar none.
Blackavaar15 September 2006
Contrary to what Pete the Geek says in his comment this film is not a comedy. I suspect he is a fan of the old black and whites and so he believes this is a spoof of them which it is most certainly not. This is a pure drama with perfect dialog and excellent acting all around. The film basically tells the events that unfold around a Gangland war between the Irish and Italian mobs of the late 20s. Gabriel Byrne plays Tom, Leo's (Albert Finney) right hand man and adviser who disagrees with his boss's decision to protect the conman brother (John Turturro) of his girlfriend Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) and must work his own wily methods to protect Leo from this decision.

This is a masterpiece of modern film and definitely shows that the Cohen brothers can do anything with film. The dialog and accents are all perfectly executed in vintage 20s style and flare, the sets are absolutely beautiful and the costume work is so good you almost feel like you stepped back in time. Anyone who doesn't love this film should go back and try watching it again. The musical score alone is enough to make it worth while.
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9/10
Dark, Brooding & Full of Intrigue
seymourblack-13 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Dark, brooding and full of intrigue, "Miller's Crossing" was the third movie to be written, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and in the opinion of many, was also their best. It's certainly good to watch because of its rather involved story, its eccentric characters and the droll humour that's such a trademark of the Coens' work. Typically, for a gangster movie, no-one can be trusted and there are plenty of betrayals, double crosses and deceptions. More surprisingly, however, there are also some occasions where certain individuals, uncharacteristically, show genuine loyalty and aspire to act ethically.

In the late 1920s, Irish mobster Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney) who has both the Police Chief and the Mayor on his payroll, is also the de facto political leader of an unnamed Eastern city in the United States. In his day to day work he values the sound advice that he's regularly given by his friend and fellow gangster, Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) but when he's visited by his rival, an Italian mobster called Johnny Casper (Jon Polito), a situation arises in which he feels unable to follow Tom's advice.

Leo learns that a bookie called Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) has routinely been disclosing information about Casper's fixed fights to other gamblers and in order to stop the losses that he's been suffering; Casper is intent on eliminating Bernie without delay. When Leo says that Bernie pays for protection and isn't to be touched, Casper becomes both furious and frustrated. The real reason that Leo doesn't agree to the hit is because Bernie's sister Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) is his mistress. Tom tries to get Leo to change his mind by telling him that Verna is a grifter who's just using him but Leo isn't prepared to listen.

Everything changes after a failed hit on Leo triggers a gang war. Tom discloses that he's having an affair with Verna and then also switches sides to work with Casper. In order to prove his loyalty to his new boss, Tom is ordered to kill Bernie and although he makes it look as if he's done so, he actually lets the treacherous bookie go. This proves to be a bad move because the fact that the hit was not witnessed, puts Tom in a tight spot when he gets targeted by Casper's sadistic henchman Eddie Dane (J.E. Freeman) and blackmailed by Bernie. Furthermore, in order to end the gang war and settle a few scores in the process, Tom not only manipulates the events that follow so expertly that he achieves his various aims but also does so in a way that unequivocally proves his loyalty to Leo.

Jon Polito is terrific as the hot-headed Casper who despairs at the lack of ethics that he encounters in his business dealings and says "if you can't trust a fix, what can you trust?". Marcia Gay Harden does well as the heartless, two-timing Verna and John Turturro is brilliant as the repulsive Bernie. Albert Finney as the tough gangster who shows more humanity than most and Gabriel Byrne as the story's great schemer, are also both perfect in their lead roles.

"Miller's Crossing" is very stylish, well-written and features some magnificent cinematography which as well as being aesthetically pleasing, contributes so much to the atmosphere of the piece. What makes it most absorbing, however, is the quality of its story and the idiosyncrasies of its characters.
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9/10
Nobody knows anybody - not that well
petra_ste10 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This Prohibition era film noir follows Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), cynical but loyal adviser of mobster Leo (Albert Finney), as tension with the rival gang led by Caspar (Jon Polito) escalates; complicating matters are Vera (Marcia Gay Harden), Leo's girlfriend, and her brother Bernie (John Turturro), a grifter whom Caspar wants dead but Leo is determined to protect.

Being a Coen brothers movie, Miller's Crossing features impeccable cinematography, a great score by Carter Burwell, snappy dialogues peppered with black humor ("All in all, not a bad guy - if looks, brain and personality don't count"). Byrne, Finney, Turturro, Harden and J.E. Freeman (as a fearsome thug) are all excellent; the stand-out is a deliciously hammy Polito as the puffy, sweaty, jovial boss with a huge chip on his shoulder and a comical obsession to run his business with an appearance of "ethics".

Structure is interesting - the Coens introduce a relationship or a scene, then repeat it later but with a crucial spin. The interplay between Leo and Tom mirrors the one between Caspar and his right-hand man Dane; twice a man wanders through the woods at Miller's Crossing, once to kill, once to be killed; twice a man begs for his life on his knees; the various political figures, like a Greek choir of sycophants, bounce between Leo and Caspar as the power balance shifts. And the key dynamic of the main triangle is not Tom and Leo fighting for Verna's affection, but rather Tom and Verna fighting for Leo's.

Then there is the Coens' genius for subverting expectations. Small moments become memorable: when Tom is awaiting a beating, he is left alone with a huge thug, who walks ominously towards him. Tom smacks him with a chair; the thug, shocked and offended, stomps out of the room holding his bloody nose, then a smaller, older guy storms in and knocks Tom out. The overall effect is darkly humorous, surprising, engrossing.

9/10
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8/10
The answer my friend is a hat blowing in the wind.
Spikeopath10 November 2014
The Coen brothers craft a loving homage to gangster pictures of yore with splendid results. Essentially the plot has Gabriel Byrne as a good - bad guy caught between two rival gangster factions. It's a standard story line that is still providing cinematic water for many a film maker these days, but shot through the Coen prism, with literary astuteness holding court, it's a genre piece of considerable class. A picture in fact that gets better and better with further viewings.

When the Coen's are on form they have the skills to make a grade "A" thriller and blend it with a sort of dry irony. It's like they bite the hand that feeds whilst praising said genre influences to the rafters, but it works as damn fine entertainment. On a narrative level Miller's Crossing molds the Byzantine with the labyrinthine, keeping the complexities just on the right side of the street from that of art for arts sake.

Visually the film is superb, the hard working sweat of the city dovetails impudently with the mother nature beauty of Miller's Crossing the place, a place home to misery, a witness to the dark side of man. All the while Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro and Jon Polito bring an array of characterisations to the party, each one his own man but each craftily proving the folly of man. Marcia Gay Harden, in one of her first mainstream roles, slinks about making the two main boys sweaty, and wonderful she is as well. While Carter Burwell provides a musical score that has a smug (in a good way) self awareness about it.

Style over substance? Yes, on formative viewings it is. But go back, look again, see and sample what is not being said. Pulpers and noirers will I'm sure get the gist. 8/10
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5/10
Good components, but they do not blend naturally.
PenOutOfTime26 February 2008
Tom Reagan, the main character in this film, frequently states that you cannot know a person well, and both much of the appeal, and the weakness of this film lie in just this approach to characterization. The film has an intricate plot, and many people will find that characteristic very appealing, but the many intricate plot twists and character decisions somehow do not seem to spring naturally from either the characters or events on screen.

This disconnect is an odd thing to see, because any, or at least most, individual scenes from the film are more or less viable and reasonable in and of themselves, but taken as a whole, you can see the puppet strings of the movie yanking the characters this way and that to achieve complexity and surprise. Because of this, while much of the acting is good, it feels false in context, with scenes failing to synchronize with one another, and with the only realistic characters, considering an individual performance as a whole, being the simple and somewhat stereotypical ones. If you are sensitive to this disconnect, you may well dislike the movie, but if you are instead, longing for a complex plot, you may love it.

I should note that as usual in a Coen brothers film, the dialog is a treat, but cannot fail to mention that unlike their better known work, you are likely to miss a good deal of it, as the sound quality is not high enough to decipher many a clever comment.

All considered, the easiest way of looking at this film is to see it as an early effort, pointing to future greatness perhaps, but not a complete and developed masterpiece.
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7/10
Very good gangster movie , being magnificently played , masterfully paced and visually exhilarating
ma-cortes16 November 2018
A nice gangster movie marvelously written and set in the Twenties when Prohibition took place and full of perfect setting , colorful scenes and studied frames . Here Jewish , Italian , Irish mobsters spin cobwebs of treason , protection , murders and vendetta over themselves and their family . It deals with a mysterious protagonist who sets a complex scheme in motion , Tom Reagan : Gabriel Byrne is the brain behind the throne of an Irish ganglord , Leo : Albert Finney, but at a violent war against another mobster ; John Polito, the latter begins falling out . Meanwhile , there appears the girlfriend : Marcia Gay Harden stunts as the cunning woman who sleeps with Byrne and his boss , Finney , in hopes of a better life and protection for her small-time crook brother : John Turturro .Tom attempts to keep the peace an order between warring mobs , but things go wrong and he gets caught in divided loyalties. At the end it is a joy to watch the pieces of the jigsaw , here fitting perfectly towards the conclusion and it makes complete sense and well-closed plot .What's the rumpus? You can dangle. Up is down, black is white, and nothing is what it seems. Nothing is what it seems at Miller's Crossing.

The faultlessly paced film is a really dark entry in the mobster genre , being crammed with suspense , menace , violence , turns , as well as sharp, witty dialogue and Byzantine plotting ; though , overlong , and hard to follow, at times . It is well constructed and makes absolute sense ; adding both , emphasis and darkness to dilemma and resolution . It is a crime thriller with several roles complicating the twisted plot and it charts the gang wars between two mobsters in an American city during Prohibition . The action blazes in bursts between the workings of the script , and the merciless violence is relentlessly real , earning a movie without intercourse scenes , sex , or any profanity or bad language and adult certificate on its own . The movie is hugely inventive , with agreeable narrative , but it is also pays an enjoyable tribute to the crime literature , notably Dashiell Hammett novels and films of the 30s . And there's another level as a series of variations of themes of friendship , betrayal , ambition , trustworthy and ethics . At times , the criss-crossing of abstract and complex motifs recalls the formal style and complexity of Peter Greenaway movies . Being artfully poised between a subtle acknowledgement of hits own artifice and a sinister realism , including grilsy killings and high body-count . The engaged crossed dialogue between Gabriel Byrne and Marcia Gay Harden remembers Humprey Bogart/Lauren Bacall couple . Armed with this gem of a script , the players give excellently weighted interpretations . Gabriel Byrne delivers a fine acting as Tom , Teo's loyal right-hand man , who is the lover of Leo's mistress , he is starring , but no hero , being as deeply flawed as the man he fights . Support cast is frankly top-drawer , such as : Jon Polito , J.E. Freeman ,Mike Starr , the early deceased Michael Jeter , Danny Aiello , Al Mancini , Steve Buscemi , Oleg Krupa , among others . And cameos from Sam Raimi , Michael Badalucco and Frances McDormand , Cohen's wife , as Mayor's Secretary . Wonderful and evocative musical score by Carter Burwell . As well as glimmering and brilliant cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld .

From Cohen Brothers comes this extremely dark and flawlessly narrated flick , as Joel Cohen's filmaking never puts a foot wrong . The motion picture was well written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen . Like ¨Raising Arizona¨ and ¨Blood simple¨ this works both , as a mobster movie , and an ironic comment of that genre . Both of whom have shared these duties on all of their films, but Joel has always been listed as director and Ethan as producer . The first Coen brothers film where both he and brother Ethan Coen are given directing and producing credits was Ladykillers (2004). Both of them are part of the prestigious group of individuals to have won Oscars for writing , directing and producing in the same year, for the film No Country for Old Men (2007). Their career is splendid from first film : Blood simple (1984) to Arizona Baby (1987), Miller's crossing (1990) , Barton Fink (1991), the great Lebowski (1998), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) , Intolerable Cruelty (2003) , Burn After Reading (2008) , A Serious Man (2009) , True grit (2010) , among others . Rating : 7.5/10 . It is arguably an US mainstream first art movie .
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Decent
Red_Identity29 May 2014
So I actually expected more. No, it's not a bad film by any means, and it has some fine, fine performances, but it left me feeling cold by the end. The skills shown here are undeniable, the staging and plotting, but somehow the film ends up feeling just a little but boring at times. What caused this, I'm not totally sure, and I really can't fault the film too much. It sounds like I didn't like it, but I did. It's a decent enough film, Turturro is pretty amazing and pretty much the MVP of the film. Still, I sort of expected more and as it stands, it's probably my least favorite films of the Coens (although I still have a lot to see from them).
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10/10
hang onto your hat !!! This under-rated classic packs a wallop
barrwell13 September 2010
Is it really a stretch to claim that Millers Crossing is the Coen Brother's (Fargo, Blood Simple) greatest film? Not if you are judging it on technical merit. The acting, screen writing, cinematography and direction are at near perfection. I've probably seen this film 10 times since it came out and I continue to catch things for the first time. Each scene flows into the next with such fluidity its almost hypnotic. This is one of my all time favorites which deserves this 10 rating...a rating I seldom give.

The setting is prohibition-era, big city America and that's all we know, and all we need to know...this movie isn't about history. This is a film that explores themes like power, loyalty and trust. The plot is rather intricate for a gangster movie and the first time you view it you aren't exactly sure just what happened. This is not a complaint about the film, but really more of a compliment. Many film classics through the years can leave you confused if you really dissect them afterwords.

The story revolves around the central character Tommy (Gabriel Byrne), who is the right hand man to mob boss Leo (Albert Finney). It seems a rival named Johnny Casper (Jon Polito) is about to start a war over a two-bit bookie named Bernie (John Turturro) and Leo has decided to protect Bernie as Leo is currently seeing Bernie's sister Verna (Marcia Gay Harden). Casper is not at all happy about this and neither is Tommy and he tries to warn Leo but Leo is smitten and vows to protect his lover's brother.

This is where things start to get murky, who is really loyal to who, and why? Leo controls everything in the city but when he narrowly survives assassination, he suddenly starts to lose grip of his power. At one point a cautious Tommy tries talking sense into over-confident Leo with the memorable line "you run this town because people think you run it, if they stop thinking it, you stop running it". This is the type of dialog you'd expect from a movie made in the 1940s. Much of Millers Crossing seems like its paying homage to a bygone era of film, the jargon (take your flunky and dangle) the snappy byplay between characters and the emotional flatness of everyone involved...no one in this film seems to be having much fun. But they are fun to watch!

I would have to agree that the best scenes of the film are Leo and the "Danny boy" scene and the title scene...Bernie's little ride out to Millers crossing. John Turturro is astounding in this scene, but I hate to single out any one actor in Millers Crossing because the whole cast is absolutely perfect.

This brings me to my favorite part which is the climactic scene at Casper's house. To me, this is the most intense scene in the movie and actually makes the hairs on my neck stand up! Casper of course leaves us with the immortal words....something he tells all his boys...."always put one in the brain".

Gotta love it, and yes it was overshadowed by Goodfellas and other films when it was released, but like fine wine the classics always age well....and if you've never seen Millers Crossing I ENVY YOU, because you get the sheer joy of seeing a perfect film for the first time!
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Postmodern Prometheus
tieman6425 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
With "Miller's Crossing", the Coens turn their playful pens to the world of 1930s gangster flicks and 1940s detective noirs, churning out a film that owes a little too much to Kurosawa's "Yojimbo".

It's a slick picture, every shot precise, every colour carefully calibrated, but what eventually emerges is little more than a formalist game. Gangster iconography meets laser printer, the plot plays out like a self-conscious attempt to capture the labyrinthal tone of early noirs. Characters beg and break down in tears...but we don't care for any of these people. They're robot copies, everything reduced to an aesthetic choice.

More than Tarantino, Leone or De Palma, the Coen's are the poster-boys of cut and paste cinema. Their films are exercises in stylistic wit, more a series of vignettes that work in isolation as comedic short films, than any sort of comment on the world. Sample filmmakers, theirs is a cinema that can't look beyond its own stylistic myopia. That they sample legendary directors and iconic films does not by association make them part of that league of talent. And yet...

And yet the Coens are honest about their dishonesty. Their films are cartoons, exercises in buffoonery (only a trickster would title a film, "A Serious Man"), which tend to wallow in comical nihilism. It's all a game because cinema has become a game. It's all pastiche, because Western cinema has become pastiche. It's nihilistic, because most of American cinema has lost all meaning. So why not wallow in the filth and do it with style? The Coens thus leave us only two choices: revel in their cinematic wit or reproach them for not trying.

7.9/10 – "Miller's Crossing" has two great sequences, but it's also one of the Coens' most smug pictures, its overly glossy look (shades of "Road to Perdition") and heavily stylized dialogue diluting any long-lasting imapct. Worth two viewings.
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4/10
mediocre
thejimhale4 June 2008
Not sure what others saw in this film. I barely could got through the movie. The character dialog was not realistic and in some cases made you cringe. The Italian and Jewish characters where pure stereotypical rubbish as were most of the Irish. The story made no sense, particularly all the trust everyone had in Tom Reagan. There was no chemistry between the girl and Reagan... the whole relationship made no sense. Oh, and the girl was singularly unattractive. What a waste of great actors too. I'd have expected Turturro and Steve Buscani (who only had a brief appearance, to be way more picky in the character's they played then the pathetic Bernie and Mink. Albert Finney was pretty descent as Leo (Irish Mob boss) and was the one saving grace. In essence to me the story and characters weren't really believable.
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8/10
Another Coen brothers triumph.
wayofthecass26 October 2007
This is one my favourite gangster pictures of all time and to say the least I am a big fan of the genre. The use of the camera by the Coen bros.,the cinematography and the detail of the mise-en-scene are first rate. Yeah yeah. Thats my sad attempt to show that I learned something in film school. Seriously though the sets are excellent. As in The Hudsucker Proxy the Coens really make you feel like your in a completely different time and place.

Gabe Byrne is well cast as the softly spoken loner who by the end of the picture has danced rings around everybody yet doesn't seem much better off. Tom Reagan(Byrne) is a very original character because one can really relate to him. He hasn't got the stomach to murder, doesn't carry a gun despite all of the violence which surrounds and indeed threatens him every day and is prepared to take a beating as opposed to venting hell hath no fury style vengeance which would result in a much higher penalty. Essentially he's an everyman who is playing the cards life has dealt him and is more than aware its a shitty hand but knows the best way to win is not to go for broke.

Albert Finney is excellent as Leo the boss of the Irish mob who run a very fictional Chicago-esq setting and who is a lifetime friend of Reagan who is essentially Leo's unofficial consular. John Turturro goes from a 'tough-guy' in 'Do The Right Thing' to an at times pathetic yet equally psychotic 'rat' in this picture rather superbly. J.E. Freeman represents a rather commanding and intimidating physical presence as the fearsome Eadie Dane who has to be one of the most memorably sadistic henchmen ever committed to the screen. However for me Jon Polito, a favourite of the Coens, just about runs away with the picture as the wise-cracking mob underboss Johnny Caspar, a tough talking and ambitious Italian who has become fed up of taking the scraps from Leo's table and launches his own bid for the crown as the town's head honcho.

The film offers one of the most violent and memorable scenes in movie history when to the sweet theme of 'Danny Boy', two of Caspar's henchmen attempt to assassinate his now rival boss Leo at his home. The sheer ferocity of Tommy Guns has never been so well portrayed or indeed has this very cinematic weapon ever been so aesthetically pleasing.

The theme of the film is, like many before, borrowed from 'Yojimbo' with a middle man, Tom Reagan, playing off two rival gangs. The difference is that Tom actually does have loyalty to one.Another difference is that there is a lot of well executed humour here. Thats not to say there wasn't some in the Kirisawa classic but it's a little more obvious here. There is a more direct comparison to this film which some may have noticed but believe me 'Last Man Standing', released several years later, does not hold a candle to this picture. That film took itself a hell of a lot more seriously and faded from the memory rather quicker quite possibly because you had seen it all done before but better.

A typically Coenesque surreal edge is also given by the at times unorthodox camera use and blandness of the sets. As in 'Hudsucker' and 'Barton Fink' the minimalist and somewhat austere fashion of the pre-60s years is overemphasized to great effect. The film is after all meant to be a fantasy. Yes a very adult and violent one with obvious nods to the realities of Capone's Chicago and the 30s and 40s Cagney gangster films but still a fantasy non the less.

Overall this is a very original take on the gangster theme and a visual gem. It also contains some important lessons for any aspiring gangsters. In the words of Johnny Casper "Look at this kid. Something I tell all my boys.Always put one in the brain!"
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8/10
Sharp and witty but thoughtful
tristanarnison14 August 2007
'Miller's Crossing' is a cleverly constructed and sharply written piece of work in which the dialogue plays as important a role as the action in creating the drama. It is seemingly the tale of an amoral existentialist hero, Tom Reagan, negotiating his way through a complex situation, rather in the manner of a Jean-Pierre Melville film such as 'Le Doulos' or 'Le Samourai'. However the film is deeply concerned with questions of loyalty and obligation, and Tom's final choice is actually moral one. The film is carefully shot in an autumnal palate but is staged without extravagance and makes excellent use of the interior sets and few locations. The tight structure and deliberate air of unreality, which is heightened by deft comic touches, separates this from more portentous crime dramas such as 'The Godfather' or 'Once upon a time in America', and gives 'Miller's Crossing' its own unique place in the genre.
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3/10
Boring, Derivative, Silly, Poor Acting, Did I mention Silly?
GideonPope3 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I gave this a 3 because it was not totally unwatchable.

The main problem with this movie is that the story was silly and pointless.

The problem with trying to make a good movie based on a silly and pointless story is that you are starting below zero, and everything else has to be excellent to even bring the movie up to good.

That didn't happen here.

As a first matter, the acting was terrible. The worst acting in the movie came when the guy from Fargo is at the bottom of the stairs talking to the lead character. I almost fell off my chair laughing it was so bad. He literally looked like what you'd expect at the High School talent show - forced, as if he was reading off of a teleprompter.

As a further example of bad acting, the Italian actor who played the Jewish character was terrible throughout. The scene where he is on his knees and "pleading for his life" was laugh out loud funny - it was that unbelievable. Then later, when the same character tries to act tough, it's about as believable as Screech trying to act tough on saved by the bell.

The acting of the Italian mobster is another low point - he overdoes it to the point of making Dinero look reserved.

Beyond the acting, the story stunk.

For example, in one scene the Italian mobster kills his, presumably, long time bodyguard and number 1 because the lead character has come over to the mobster's side and spun a tale about how the bodyguard is double crossing the mobster. Please. I find Clifford the Big Red Dog more believable than that. But the mobster is apparently so incredibly silly that he is willing to murder his right hand man because a guy who, 48 hours earlier, represented the enemy Irish mobster is now telling him his bodyguard is a traitor!!

Sure.

That'd be like Vladimir Putin's right hand man coming to the U.S. and convincing the president, in a matter of hours, that his VP was a spy.

Those are just some examples - the whole movie is one long string of the ridiculous and improbable all strung together into a big mess.

Another example is when the lead character is being forced to kill the Jewish character in the woods. It was obvious from the start that he wasn't going to do it. So he marches him out there, and the two guys who work for his "new" Italian boss don't even bother to keep an eye on him. They let him waltz off into the woods, they hear two gunshots, spaced a minute or more apart, and they think nothing of it.

That is so stupid so as to be beneath dime store pulp fiction, never mind a movie on the big screen.

Then there's the painfully derivative machine gun scene where each machine gun has about 7,000 rounds of ammo in it, and when a guy gets hit, he doesn't just fall limp, like what happens in real life, he stands there with his arms in a zombie reach and wiggles like a Shaker on Sunday for about 3 minutes and 3,000 of the 7,000 rounds are send through his vibrating torso. Ridiculous, silly, and boring.

Another example. Hit men walk in front door of mansion, walk up to room for about 4 minutes, then walk in and Irish mobster is under bed.

What would any non-retarded person do? Well, clearly then would fire 2 or 3 thousand rounds into the bed. Not!

You'd hit the floor and spray under the bed or you'd get up on the bed and fire down, or you'd get back in the hallway and you'd take an angle . . .

But not in the brother's movies. In the brother's movies, everybody acts like a complete moron all of the time.

If a movie is made based on an improbable premise, then the movie can be enjoyable. Fargo is one example of this. The events of that movie are improbable, but not impossible. On the other hand, if a movie is made based on an impossible premise, then the movie has to either aspire to be Buckaroo Banzai - where it is understood that everything is unrealistic - or it is a flop, as in the present case.

I find it funny that some people say that they watch this movie over and over and it "gets better".

I can tell you that, were I to be strapped to a chair with my eyelids held open as in Clockwork Orange (great movie), I would not only NOT think this movie was better, I would think it even worse, because all of the bad acting, impossible behavior, and silly story lines would be even more obvious.

Ayy.

Absolutely terrible movie.
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7/10
The Man Who Mistook His Life for a Hat
rmax30482322 February 2004
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS.

Gabriel Byrne's hat plays an important part in this movie. When he is about to be killed, an assassin takes the hat and scales it into the woods. When he's about to kill someone else and is wearing only his underwear, he grabs his gun and his hat and races outside. The last shot of the movie has Byrne pulling hit hat brim down low over his eyes then slowly raising his face to stare at a departing friend. In fact, everybody's hat is kind of important. We see the hat of a dead person half way down the stairs before the camera shows us the body at the top. Jokes are made about people's heads having outgrown their hats. A pudgy gangster keeps complaining about his rivals giving him "the high hat."

Obviously the hat seems to "stand for" something but I'm not sure what. Lives? Maybe. But in fact I couldn't follow the plot either, and I kept getting the names of the characters mixed up except for a few of the most important. The plot is all twists and turns, as stylized as the dialogue -- "twist," "bumped off," "yegg," "roscoe." The whole thing could have been lifted out of, or turned into, an old comic book, perhaps "Crime Does Not Pay," which I remember from childhood.

And, as in a comic book, it's hard to care much about who gets "leaned on" or "bumped off" since they're all cartoons anyway. Not that the story or the film is designed to be realistic. There isn't nearly as much blood as in most gangster movies. And Byrne takes several poundings, any one of them enough to hospitalize a rhinoceros, without any sequelae more than a bit of a wince as he struggles to rise from the floor.

I guess, though, that I didn't want Byrne to get "bumped off." I don't know why. Maybe it's his homely face and tragic demeanor, which made it easy for me to identify with him. With that mournful visage he should run for elective office -- maybe president of the United States. He'd at least have the political cartoonist vote in his pocket. And I suppose too that I was glad to see Albert Finney survive in one piece. He's a decent dramatic actor but he has an outstanding way with comedy. (That droll American accent.) And he must have a good sense of humor too, without any pride to speak of. When Byrne bursts into a lady's room he shouts that the other gals should get out. One of the "gals" in the background is Finney dressed in a maid's costume. He makes a hurried sign of the cross and rushes out along with the other girls. He also has a line, "Dis is da kissoff," which is a repeat of a line he had in "Two for the Road," some 30 years earlier. How can you not want a guy like that to survive? That line isn't the film's only link to the past. One character's name is Judy Barton. And an inconspicuous poster informs us that Lars Thorwald, a prize fighter, will be featured in an upcoming bout.

So anyway I couldn't follow the plot exactly. But looked at as an exercise is stylization this is a pretty good movie. A good deal of imagination has gone into it, the dialogue, the location shooting, and especially the direction. I don't just mean bravura jump cuts or negative shots or simple-minded tactics that are meant to draw attention to themselves. I mean more subtle stuff, of which I will give just one example. While two henchmen wait on the road, Byrne marches Turturro into the woods to kill him. Turturro gets on his knees and begs for his life. Byrne, realizing that NOT killing Turturro is likely to get HIM killed, nevertheless relents. Turturro stumbles off into the woods and there is a long shot of Byrne standing alone among the longleaf pine. There is a slow dissolve and Byrne's figure is replaced exactly on screen by the figures of the two henchmen back on the road, standing next to their car, and choking with laughter.

This is by no means a perfect movie, but it is a perfect original. And we give Academy Awards to blockbusting by-the-numbers disasters like "Titanic."
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2/10
gangster film for morons
clonaris21 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I am on a Cohen bros. binge at the moment having watched the BIG LEBOWSKI; BLOOD SIMPLE and FARGO just prior to Miller's Crossing.I have not written a review of these previous movies but would rate them in the 8,9,and 10's when I get around to it.That is how movies should be made.So when I saw the incredibly high ratings this movie received from the Users I just had to write in about this movie before the other better ones.I suppose I was lucky watching 3 classics before this shtinker.(sic). .And how this movie falls flat compared to the other Cohen masterpieces just mentioned .Miller's Crossing was like watching a badly written comic book with characters you would not care about because the writers did not flesh out any realistic characterisations.The Italian mafioso with no Italian henchmen? The Irish gangsters with no Gaelic accents?The Jewish fixer with a non kosher speech pattern? I mean WTF! Do your research and find out how they spoke ,then write it ,then get actors to pronounce it right.Are American audiences so idiotic they cannot tell the difference from 1930's speech patterns and 1990's forced idioms ?How many beatings does Gabriel Byrne have to cop before a bruise appears?The Italian mafioso who now runs the town,(Chicago) is stupid enough to listen to the smearing of his chief henchman from a gangster who only a week ago worked for the Irish mob and then to execute the great Dane like a dog without an interrogation?

Viewers have you seen The Godfather?You probably gave it 10 if you are a gangster movie buff.Then you give 10 to this candy floss also?Where is the in between?Where are the shades of grey with scores in the middle?Of course the movie was stylistically good.It looked pretty.That alone will not make a movie interesting.The accents were not realistic,the plot was too unbelievable,and the characters all unlikeable.The ending was nihilistic.Why kill the brother of his lover(and the proverbial leak) and then not rejoin the Irish mob?I mean where is Gabriels payoff?The money he pocketed from the lone Italian Boss' pockets to pay off his horse gambling debt?The trip to the cemetery to tell his Irish boss he won't be working for him after all?The approbation from his girlfriend after she just buried her brother? Why did he go there for the ending?Was he hoping for a bullet between the ears in the final seconds of the movie to put him out of his misery?That certainly would have been an ending.
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