Can we please bring the word “rumpus” back to the mainstream?
Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne) is the right-hand-man of Leo (Albert Finney), the Irish kingpin of the 1930’s. Whatever Leo has to say, Tom helps him out with it, by any means possible, and vice versa. However, that partnership seems to go South once Tom starts sleeping with Leo’s dame (Marcia Gay Harden), and finds himself embedded with a new group of mobsters, this time, lead by the ruthless Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito). Once the two gangs go head-to-head in a battle over territory, brawn, respect and money, Tom gets thrown right in the middle of all of it, much to nobody’s surprise whatsoever.
I’m going to be honest with you all out there, this is not the first time I have ever seen this flick. No, actually far from. This right here marks my third time seeing this flick and now that I’ve not only grown older as a human-being, but as a movie-geek, I have finally come to terms with this movie’s awesomeness. Okay, maybe it’s not awesome but it comes pretty damn close, especially if you know how the Coens roll. And brother, do they roll with style!
What threw me off the first couple times upon seeing this movie was not knowing just what the hell I was getting myself into, and apparently, from reading what other peeps had to say about this flick as well, I wasn’t very far off. The Coens start this flick very traditionally where they barely give you any back-story, rarely lay down any groundwork for whom these characters are, what are their names, and/or just what the hell type of situation we have found them in. It gets even worse once you realize that everything and everybody they’re talking about, are things or people that we have never met or have yet to see, and probably will never see or meet. And lord almighty, this is about 30 minutes into the damn movie already! So therefore, upon being twisted and turned every which way but loose, you can already assume that this movie doesn’t start off on the right foot, that is, if you don’t know what to expect. However, being my third time upon seeing this, as I said before, I realized what I was getting myself into and found myself a whole lot more intrigued by everything and everyone in this movie. That’s all thanks to the Coens and everything they are able to do as writers and directors.
The Coens, as we all know, have a certain sense of style that they abide by and if you aren’t down for it, then you might as well just get the hell out! However, if you are down for it, then get ready for a wild ride with this one! This movie is chock-full of witty one-liners that never get old, are always hilarious, witty, and are spoken at a mile-a-minute that you may just have to put the subtitles on, just so you can see what the hell it is these peeps are all talking about. But no matter how talky or goofy this movie can get, it’s always interesting and very enjoyable to watch, especially when you don’t really know exactly where this flick could go, at any which second. That’s what we have all come to know, hail and praise coming from the Coens and this movie and their craft-work here is no slight exception. It’s painted in Coen blood, from start-to-finish. And if you don’t like that, then take the high road, Jack.
That’s my attempt at trying to sound like one of these gangsters. But I’ll stop now.
The plot does get a little over-zealous at times and yet, I still have no idea just how the hell everything went down in the end, but that’s the fun with these types of movies, especially when they’re done by the Coens. There’s always something new or cool to pick out from the haystack here and whether or not it all adds up to the bigger picture, is solely on you and how much you pay attention. Does that mean that this flick doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme things? Of course not! Heck, I’d probably say that the movie makes more sense, but to me, some things just didn’t add up to their fullest extent. I don’t know if that’s the Coen’s, me, or just something about with the cosmos in the sky; but either way, something didn’t mesh as well as I had planned, but I still remained thrilled and constantly entertained by this movie, even if I did have to do a little head-scratching at times.
That’s when you know that you have masters at-work here, when you can get a flick that’s all about being crazy, loopy, and wild with where it wants to go and how, but yet, rarely ever seems to make sense, and still have it work. These guys are geniuses at making movies like this because no matter how many times you may scratch your head or have to press “the rewind button”, you always know that you’re in for a treat when it’s the Coens at play, and that’s always a joy to watch. I don’t care who you are in the world, watching the Coens have an absolute ball with fun material is fine entertainment for me. Whether or not that’s your type of cake, is fine with you. But it’s all me, baby, and that is what I like.
You my boys, Joel and Ethan. You my boys.
Let me also not forget to mention the amazing cast that’s on display here, that keep up with the Coens, every step of their goofy ways. Gabriel Byrne has never really lit-up the screen for me as an actor, but here, he’s pretty damn solid as Tom Regan, the type of guy you wouldn’t expect in a movie like this, yet, totally works. It’s sort a strange predicament that this guy is in because he’s always smart, lippy, and a step ahead of the curve, but yet, somehow always finds himself getting his ass kicked, a couple of black-eyes to show off and his head in his hands. It’s strange to see a type of guy like this that’s so intelligent and so on-the-top of his game, get stumped almost every step of the way, but not only do the Coens pull it off with no remorse, but Byrne does so as well. Byrne’s very good here and shows that you can give a character a minor ounce of heart, even if he goes on with the same smirk and remarks the whole time. Also, the guy’s gotta pretty kick-ass Irish accent that I’m pretty sure isn’t even a put-on. Irishmen unite!
Another fella who almost (ALMOST) does a better Irish accent is Albert Finney as Leo, Tom’s boss/buddy. Finney is great as Leo because he’s got the brass, he’s got the old-time appeal, and he’s also got enough stew in his bowl to where he can knock somebody’s teeth out and shoot some mofo’s up if he has to. That’s exactly what he does at one point here, and it’s great to see when an older man like Finney can still get up, shake off his legs and show these youngsters a thing or two about being tough and rugged, the old-school way. The problem with Finney, or I should say his character, Leo, is that he does disappear for a good majority of the movie, which sucks because we do begin to miss him after quite some time. That is, until he came back to the screen and somehow made everything all better with the weather.
However, much of that screen-time was actually given up for one person, Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar. Polito’s character seems like one of these dunces that doesn’t seem like he knows what he’s doing, why he’s doing it or what the hell he’s going to do next as back-up plan, but what he does know, is that he’s in it for the money. That’s probably how most gangsters were like back in the golden days, but what makes Polito stand-out the most is that he’s a bit of an a-hole, and yet, still a sympathetic guy because he isn’t a mean or a sadistic son-of-a-bitch. He just wants to go about his business in a kind, pleasant way where nobody has to get hurt and sticking to his “ethics”. Yeah, if somebody has to get pinched every once and awhile, well, then that’s just the way it is. It’s strictly business.
Last, but sure as freakin’ hell not least is John Turturro as Bernie, one of the main dudes in this story that has to keep it moving. Turturro plays Bernie like a wise-cracking, sneaky bastard that scams people all for the good of his own wallet, but yet, has this one scene where he absolutely breaks down and throws out all of his cards. Everybody knows the scene and if you don’t, just look up-top. It’s the one scene where Turturro lets loose and has you wonder, “Should he kill this guy or not? And if not, for what reason?” Once you start bringing morality into a flick like this, then you know you got a keeper, but when you have Turturro doing his thing and making the rest of the movie seem like his own, personal play-land; then it’s more than just a keeper. It’s a freakin’ winner, that’s what it is!
Consensus: Not everything adds up or makes perfect sense by the end of Miller’s Crossing, but like most Coen flicks, it is always fun, entertaining, enlightening, tense, funny, bloody, and most of all, able to give you something new to pick out from among the rest of the crowd, everytime you give it a view.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!
I love this film. Hell, I always get goosebumps during that shooting scene w/ “Danny Boy” in the background.
That’s a pretty cool scene. Signature Coen Bros.
Great review. I should put this on my watch list.
I think you definitely should, Zoe!
Excellent review. I’m a big fan, too. 😉
It’s some good stuff, especially when you watch it again!
While we’re binging “rumpus” back to the lexicon, let’s also add “high hat”.
That’s always worth bringing back, too!
It’s been a good few years since I saw this, and can’t honestly say I remember too much about it. Time to give it another watch by the sounds of it!
I think so!
One of those movies which doesn’t seem to make it to television here. But interesting indeed!
Very interesting, so you should definitely watch it whenever you can.
I am a big fan of this movie. Definitely time for a rewatch. Great review!
I think so! Thanks!
Nice review mate. Been meaning to see this one for a while now.
And you should definitely give it a try. See what ya think!
Great film, enjoyed the review. I agree it’s a hard one to get into – maybe their most ‘difficult’ film, but very rewarding.
Found it very rewarding, especially once you pay attention to each and every little detail. I still have ways to go before it fully kicks into gear for me, but I think I’ll love it once I get it.
I’m a huge fan of Miller’s Crossing. It has some of the best scenes that the Coens have ever done, and Albert Finney is so awesome in it. I also really like the style of the movie and think it pays tribute to ’30s gangster films without feeling like a copy. Nice work!
It pays homage, but still feels like it’s own beast. The best way to do homages.
LOVE this movie, Dan! Great review, man!
Nice review. I love Miller’s Crossing, it’s a very stylistic and rewarding picture. The Danny Boy scene is one of the Coens’ best in my opinion.
It’s the one scene everybody seems to love, all because it’s signature Coen Bros. Dark, moody, yet ironic, all at the same time.
I quite like this one. Gotta love Gabriel Byrne in his Fedora, and Albert Finney was phenomenal in this.
They’re both rad. Especially Finney, who could probably kick my ass.
I love the Coen’s a lot (for True Grit, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, A Serious Man, etc…) and I’ve been meaning to see this for a while. Good to know it’s worth checking out. Nice review man.
It definitely is worth a watch, especially if you like them already.
This is in my top three of Coen’s movies. I adore it and for some reason it never seems to get labelled as one of the great gangster movies. In my opinion, it deserves to considered amongst the best of the genre.
Damn, Mark! You get on that stand, say it loud and say it proud!
The Coens are VERY hit or miss with me, however I’m happy to say that Miller’s Crossing was a hit for me when I saw it. I love film noir and I particularly dig stories which involve a lone gun playing two rival gangs off each other like Lucky Number Slevin or Last Man Standing. It’s a lot of fun to watch two different groups flailing around, getting the long con and not realizing their doomed until it’s too late. I remember feeling that the Coens do a fantastic job paying homage to the genre and putting together a story with twists and turns to keep you entertained. I agree with you though that the first 30 minutes or so can be very confusing on first watch. A lot of names and things get thrown around without much explanation. That one scene that you reference with John Turturro is amazing, and in many ways he steals the show with that tiny part. I’ve never been a huge fan of Gabriel Byrne either, but he works for me in this movie. Good review.
Nice review, been ages since I last saw this movie.