Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Coen|
|Produced by||Ethan Coen|
|Written by||Joel and Ethan Coen|
|Starring||Gabriel Byrne |
Marcia Gay Harden
|Music by||Carter Burwell|
|Editing by||Michael R. Miller|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)|| |
|Running time||115 minutes|
|Box office||$5,080,409 (North America)|
Miller's Crossing is a 1990 American gangster film by the Coen brothers and starring Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden, Jon Polito and John Turturro. The plot concerns a power struggle between two rival gangs and how the protagonist, Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), plays both sides off each other.
In 2005, Time chose Miller's Crossing as one of the 100 greatest films made since the inception of the periodical. Time critic Richard Corliss called it a "noir with a touch so light, the film seems to float on the breeze like the Frisbee of a fedora sailing through the forest."
Tom Reagan (Byrne) is the long-time confidant of Leo O'Bannon (Finney), an Irish American political boss who runs a city during the Prohibition-era. When Leo's up-and-coming Italian rival Johnny Caspar (Polito) announces his intentions to kill bookie Bernie Bernbaum (Turturro), Leo goes against Tom's advice and extends his protection to Bernie. Bernie is the brother of Verna Bernbaum (Harden), an opportunistic gun moll who has begun a relationship with Leo while having a long-term secret affair with Tom. Leo and Caspar go to war as a consequence.
Tom tries everything he can to convince Leo to give Bernie up to Caspar to end the war; he attempts to convince Leo that Verna is playing him to protect her brother, but Leo will not be swayed. After an assassination attempt on Leo, Tom reveals his affair with Verna to Leo to prove that she is dishonest, causing Leo to beat Tom up and turn his back on both. Tom then appears to change sides and goes to work for the ascendant Caspar. He is immediately commanded to kill Bernie at Miller's Crossing to prove his loyalty.
Bernie pleads with Tom to spare him, and Tom allows him to escape. The war goes well for Caspar and he assumes Leo's position as boss of the city. However, Tom begins sowing discord between Caspar and his most trusted enforcer, Eddie Dane (Freeman). At the same time, Bernie returns and tries to blackmail Tom into killing Caspar.
Tom's machinations convince Caspar to kill Eddie Dane. Tom then arranges a meeting with Bernie, but sends Caspar instead. Bernie gets the jump on Caspar and kills him. Tom arrives and tricks Bernie into giving up his gun, saying they could blame Eddie Dane, then reveals his intention to kill Bernie. Bernie once again begs for mercy, saying "Look into your heart", but Tom shoots him.
With Caspar and Eddie Dane dead, Leo resumes his post as top boss. Verna has also won her way back into Leo's good graces, but she reacts coldly to Tom. On the day Bernie is being buried, Leo announces that Verna has proposed to him, and offers Tom his old job back. Tom refuses, and he remains behind and watches Leo leave.
- Gabriel Byrne as Tom Reagan
- Marcia Gay Harden as Verna Bernbaum
- Albert Finney as Leo O'Bannon
- John Turturro as Bernie Bernbaum
- Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar
- J. E. Freeman as Eddie Dane
- Steve Buscemi as Mink Larouie
- John McConnell as Bryan
- Mike Starr as Frankie
- Al Mancini as Tic-Tac
- Olek Krupa as Tad
- Michael Jeter as Adolph
- Michael Badalucco as Caspar's driver
- Frances McDormand as the mayor's secretary
| ||This section needs additional citations for verification. (October 2011)|
While writing the screenplay, the Coen brothers tentatively titled the film The Bighead—their nickname for Tom Reagan. The first image they conceived was that of a black hat coming to rest in a forest clearing; then, a gust of wind lifts it into the air, sending it flying down an avenue of trees. This image begins the film's opening credit sequence.
Because of the intricate, dense plot, the Coens suffered from writer's block while working on the script. They went to stay with a close friend of theirs at the time, William Preston Robertson in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the hopes that a change of scenery might help. After watching Baby Boom one night, they returned to New York City and wrote Barton Fink (in three weeks) before resuming the Miller's Crossing screenplay.
The budget was reported by film industry magazines as $14 million, but the Coens claimed in interviews that it was only $10 million. During the casting process, they had envisioned Trey Wilson (who played Nathan Arizona in their previous film Raising Arizona) as gangster boss Leo O'Bannon, but two days before the first day of principal photography he died from a brain hemorrhage. Finney was subsequently cast.
The Coens cast family and friends in minor roles. Finney also appears in a very brief cameo as an elderly female ladies' room attendant. Sam Raimi, director and friend of the Coens, appears as the snickering gunman at the siege of the Sons of Erin social club, while Frances McDormand, Joel Coen's wife, appears as the Mayor's secretary. The role of The Swede was written for Peter Stormare, but he could not be cast since he was playing Hamlet at the time. J. E. Freeman was cast and the name of the character was changed to The Dane, while Stormare went on to be featured in Fargo and The Big Lebowski.
The city in which the film takes place is unidentified, but was shot in New Orleans as the Coen Brothers were attracted to its look. Ethan Coen commented in an interview, "There are whole neighborhoods here of nothing but 1929 architecture. New Orleans is sort of a depressed city; it hasn’t been gentrified. There’s a lot of architecture that hasn’t been touched, store-front windows that haven’t been replaced in the last sixty years."
During filming, the New Orleans police would arrive semi-regularly to assess fines for permits the film crew had already procured. Joel Coen commented to Premiere during shooting, "They are acting precisely like the cops that we're depicting in the movie, and they don't even care!"
Miller's Crossing contains references to many other gangster films and film noir. Many of its situations, characters and dialogue are derived from the work of Dashiell Hammett, particularly his 1931 novel The Glass Key (as well as the 1942 film that was adapted from it). Though several important plot points are different, there are significant parallels between the two stories, and many scenes and lines are culled directly from this Hammett novel. In particular, the relationship between Tom and Leo in the film mirrors the relationship between the principal characters of the Hammett novel: Ned Beaumont and Paul Madvig.
Another important Hammett source was his 1929 novel Red Harvest, which details the story of a gang war in a corrupt Prohibition-era American city, a war initiated by the machinations of the main character. While Miller's Crossing follows the plot and main characters of The Glass Key fairly closely, the film has no direct scenes, characters, or dialogue from Red Harvest.
Two earlier films that were also influenced by the two aforementioned Hammett novels are Yojimbo (1961) and A Fistful of Dollars (1964), and, unsurprisingly, motifs from both are seen in Miller's Crossing.
Miller's Crossing was a box-office failure at the time, making slightly more than $5 million, out of its $10–$14 million budget. However, it has made a great deal of revenue in video and DVD sales. The film was critically acclaimed, and has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 66 on Metacritic.
Film critic David Thomson calls the film "a superb, languid fantasia on the theme of the gangster film that repays endless viewing." Of Turturro's performance he says "This could be the finest work of one of our best supporting actors".
|Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Miller's Crossing|
|Soundtrack album by Carter Burwell|
|Released||October 17, 1990|
|Coen brothers film soundtracks chronology|
The score was written by Carter Burwell, his third collaboration with the Coen brothers.
The soundtrack includes jazz tunes, such as "King Porter Stomp," reflective of the era in which the film is set. Other songs include "Danny Boy," sung by Frank Patterson, an Irish tenor, which is heard in Leo's house. Patterson can also be heard singing Jimmy Campbell's "Goodnight Sweetheart" in a scene in the Shenandoah Club.
- "Opening Titles" – 1:53
- "Caspar Laid Out" – 1:57
- "A Man and His Hat" – 0:56
- "King Porter Stomp" (performed by Jelly Roll Morton) – 2:09
- "The Long Way Around" – 1:39
- "Miller's Crossing" – 2:35
- "After Miller's Crossing" – 0:42
- "Runnin' Wild" (performed by Joe Grey) – 3:06
- "All a You Whores" – 0:24
- "Nightmare in the Trophy Room" – 1:37
- "He Didn't Like His Friends" – 0:24
- "Danny Boy" (performed by Frank Patterson) – 4:05
- "What Heart?" – 0:49
- "End Titles" – 4:44
- "Goodnight Sweetheart" (performed by Frank Patterson) – 0:54
- Levy, Steven (2000). ""Shot By Shot," Joel and Ethan Coen: Blood Siblings". Plexus. p. 75.
- Moraes, Francis. (2010-03-17). Miller's Crossing.
- Dahl, Steve. (2011-08-31). Miller's Crossing, Blu-ray review, Coen Brothers.
- "Miller's Crossing box office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
- Miller's Crossing at Metacritic
- Thomson, David (2008), "Have You Seen...?", New York: Knopf, p. 554.
- "YUBARI INTERNATIONAL FANTASTIC ADVENTURE FILM FESTIVAL'91". yubarifanta.com. Retrieved 2009-09-19.
- AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
- Miller's Crossing soundtrack album at Allmusic
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Miller's Crossing|
- Miller's Crossing at the Internet Movie Database
- Miller's Crossing at AllRovi
- Miller's Crossing at Rotten Tomatoes
- Miller's Crossing Production Notes