{2jtab: Movie Review}

Miller's Crossing blu-ray


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5 stars

Sometimes a brother’s protection comes at a mighty high cost.  Other times, it’s as easy as a classic double cross from a couple of heels.  Joel and Ethan Coen’s Miller’s Crossing is a dark and deadly game of gangster’s following the hat.  Whose hat?  More like what hat?  The hat, of course, is a thinly veiled reference to the actions of Tom Regan (played by Gabriel Byrne) as he exploits both sides of a dangerous situation for his profit.  Down on his luck?  Hardly.  Regan knows exactly what he is doing in what goes down as one of the best gangster flicks since the 70s.

It all begins with a humorous plea from one gangster, Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito), to another, Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney): kill the crooked bookie Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) so the crooks can make an honest cut from fixed games.  Leo passes but Tom Regan (Byrne) thinks otherwise.  The boy is trouble.  He’s also the brother of grifter Verna Bernbaum (Marcia Gay Harden), who is a longtime girlfriend of Leo and pals around with Regan on those restless nights that haunt her so.

Verna convinces Leo not to give up Bernie while Caspar plays his hand against Leo and the deadly twist is on.  In a wooded clearing Regan fakes Bernie’s assignation and tells him to clear out…only he doesn’t leave.  Now, if anyone finds out that Bernie’s alive and kicking, guess who is the dead man?  That’s right, our smooth operator Tom Regan.  Written by the Joel and Ethan Coen, Miller’s Crossing is a glorious throwback (and perhaps a bit too heavily familiar) to the wonderful writing and crackling characters of Dashiell Hammett’s crime-soaked writing.

While the direction of Joel Coen and the cinematography of Barry Sonnenfeld are both smartly subdued for this outing, the acting is phenomenal high for all involved.  Byrne sneers and leers his way through tough-guy Regan’s winding journey.  Turturro is a feast of energy for fans of character acting and delivers a snide performance that bounces around the screen with an unmatched energy.  Ever the talker, Steve Buscemi’s performance is a blistery and brief one.  Finney, always ready for the Tommy gun, snaps his mouth around each syllable of his venomous dialogue; sometimes nice and sometimes not.  The glory is finding out when, how, and to whom.

Filmed in New Orleans but posing as some unnamed Eastern city, Miller’s Crossing screams of depression-era authenticity.  It’s got style and substance; a one-two punch not often seen in cinema today.  It also plays upon the classics of its crime genre with glorious reverb.  Name that reference.  Dot that ‘i’; make those connections and, one by one, the film becomes a rich experience that will drop you to your knees begging for repeat viewings.

Full of one double cross after another, the conflicted loyalties laced throughout Miller’s Crossing makes one thing perfectly clear: everyone is a son of a bitch.  Ain’t it the life, though?

{2jtab: Film Details}

Miller's Crossing blu-rayMPAA Rating: R.
: Joel and Ethan Coen
: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Gabriel Byrne; Marcia Gay Harden; John Turturo; Albert Finney; Mike Starr
Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
Up is down, black is white, and nothing is what it seems.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Tell Leo he's not God on the throne, he's just a cheap political boss with more hair tonic than brains."
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site:
Home Video Distributor:
Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Release Date: October 1990
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 30, 2011

Synopsis: After a sudden underwater tremor sets free scores of the prehistoric man-eating fish, an unlikely group of strangers must band together to stop themselves from becoming fish food for the areas nJoel and Ethan Coen's third collaboration, the gangster film Miller's Crossing, stars Gabriel Byrne as Tom Reagan, the right-hand man of big-city Irish mob boss Leo (Albert Finney). The film opens with Italian mobster Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) and his second in command Eddie Dane (J.E. Freeman) informing Leo and Tom that they are going to kill bookie Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) because he has been revealing Caspar's fixed fights to other gamblers. Leo informs Caspar that Bernie pays for protection and is not to be touched. After the Italians leave in a huff, Tom informs Leo that he should give up Bernie.

Tom and Leo are both involved with Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), Bernie's sister. After a failed hit on Leo starts a full-scale mob war, Tom reveals to Leo the truth about his relationship with Verna. This leads to a falling-out between the pair. Tom goes to work for Caspar, but in truth, he is still loyal to Leo. Tom figures out how to manipulate all of the situations so that Leo survives, but this may cost Tom his relationship with Verna.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Miller's Crossing blu-ray

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
5 stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - August 30, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region A, B

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the 1080p transfer is glorious deep with wonderful black levels and strong shadows throughout.  Flesh tones are pure and warm.  The greens of the wooded areas are sometimes lost to the background noise, but the depth of the picture is remarkable considering its age.  Fine detail is sometimes lost to the darker colors, but, overall, a solid transfer.  The sound, presented in a superb DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, is definitely not a boneheaded play.  Surround sound is solid and the dialogue is clean.



  • None

Special Features:

The only real treat on this release is a conversation with Barry Sonnenfeld about the shooting of the film.  Here, he explains how he went from a Political Science major to making movies.  Yes, he shot some pornos by renting out his camera.  Quickly, though he tells how he fell in line with Joel and Ethan Coen and describes the shoot of Miller’s Crossing.  The rest is composed of snippets of interviews with the cast a collection of photos and the standard trailers.

  • Shooting ‘Miller's Crossing’—A Conversation with Barry Sonnenfeld (17 min)
  • Cast & Crew Interview Soundbites (9 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

{2jtab: Trailer}