Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Miller’s Crossing


The gangster picture. I didn’t like this one much the first time through, but I must have been in a bad mood or not paying attention. This second viewing worked very well. In an unnamed city (it was shot in New Orleans) in the 1920s, two gangsters battle it out. They are Albert Finney and Jon Polito, both of them very good in their very different ways. Caught in the middle and with his loyalties not always clear, is Gabriel Byrne. The cause of all this trouble is a real weasel, one of the more disgusting characters I’ve ever seen in the movies, played by John Turturro. At one point Bryne is instructed to take Turturro out in the woods to Miller’s Crossing and kill him. All the way our the weasel pleads for his life, weeping and sniffling, crying out. I’m not going to call him a coward, I’d probably have reacted the same way, but it was hard not to be totally contemptuous of him and his endlessly repeated plea to “Look into your heart!” It’s a raw, excruciating scene. Byrne, fool that he is, lets him live if he promises never to come back. Sure, right. Very soon the slimeball is back and has the incredible gall to blackmail Byrne because he didn’t kill him! This is the kind of unexpected act I consistently find in Coen Brothers scripts, and what makes them so delightful. The film is very violent, deliberately over the top with machine guns going off like firecrackers, but not actually all that bloody.