Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers The room. I keep thinking about the room. The office from which Leo pulls the strings that control the city. Leo, played by Albert Finney, is a large, strong man in late middle age, and he lacks confidence in only one area. He is not sure he can count on the love of Verna, the young dame he's fallen for. That causes him to hesitate when he knows that Verna's brother, Bernie, should be rubbed out. He doesn't want to lose Verna. And his hesitation brings the city's whole criminal framework crashing down in blood and violence.... --Roger Ebert
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers The pleasures of the film are largely technical. It is likely to be most appreciated by movie lovers who will enjoy its resonance with films of the past. What it doesn't have is a narrative magnet to pull us through -- a story line that makes us really care what happens, aside from the elegant but mechanical manipulations of the plot. The one human moment comes when Leo finds out Verna really can't be trusted. Even then, I was thinking about Farewell My Lovely, where a big mug named Moose finds out the same thing about a dame named Velma. –Roger Ebert
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers But I think about the room. What a wonderful room. All steeped in dark shadows, with expensive antique oak furniture and leather chairs and brass fittings and vast spaces of flooring between the yellow pools of light. I would like to work in this room. A man could get something done in this room. And yet the room is a key to why Miller’s Crossing is not quite as successful as it should be -- why it seems like a movie that is constantly aware of itself, instead of a movie that gets on with business. --Roger Ebert
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen became cult heroes on the strength of the laconic 1984 noir riff Blood Simple and the 1987 hayseed caper comedy Raising Arizona, but they ran into trouble while working out the labyrinthine plot of their 1990 gangster picture Miller's Crossing. A monumental case of writers' block ensued, and the Coens overcame it by dashing off the absurdist 1991 Hollywood psychodrama Barton Fink. The Miller's Crossing/Barton Fink one- two was as productive as the writer- director-producer-editor brothers had been up to that point, and the reaction to the pictures temporarily defined their careers.... Noel Murray, Onion AV Club
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers They were praised for their snappy dialogue and extreme stylization, but a growing pocket of dissenters grumbled about their rigidly controlled aesthetic and indulgence of the grotesque. Seen fresh on new DVD editions, Miller's Crossing and Barton Fink show the Coens not so much in the arch, chewing-up-old- movies mold of David Lynch and Guy Maddin (as was suspected when the films were released), but developing a more specific pastiche of period details and old-timey genres, inspired equally by their quirky sense of humor and a persistent feeling of disconnection from the human body.... Noel Murray, Onion AV Club
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Miller's Crossing and Barton Fink do occasionally come off as a bit over- storyboarded and under-felt, but a lot of what seemed painfully stylized the first time is what makes Coen movies play better the fourth and fifth. With their early-'90s efforts, the brothers broke away from the light thrills and laughs of their '80s work, and set off to build a filmography as varied, distinctively elaborate, and highly rewatchable as any in recent American cinema. Noel Murray, Onion AV Club
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, are children of movie technique. In their first two movies, "Blood Simple" and "Raising Arizona," they executed stylistic leaps and somersaults like young circus tumblers, with nary a thought for falling flat on their faces. There was a childlike, cine-kid exhilaration to it. Now, in "Miller's Crossing," producer/writer Ethan and director/writer Joel have come of inevitable age. Their routine's become more than just twists and turns. They've taken their show on the road and made a production out of it, with an intricately organized sideshow of themes, exposition, characters and fast talking. Things are getting involved and you'd be well advised to pin your ears back. --Desson Howe
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Substance is here in spades, along with the twisted, brilliantly controlled style on which filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen made a name. --Variety
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers "Miller's Crossing" is brooding, dark and as coldly gleaming as gun metal. A gangster noir movie written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, it is a grim classic to admire if not to love, a Dashiell Hammett-style jigsaw of hard-boiled argot, dame troubles and existential dread. As violent as the streets of Washington, this Prohibition-era drama -- "a dirty town movie," the Coens call it -- is more than a little at home as a blood-and- pulp parable for these times.... --Rita Kempley
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers "Miller's Crossing" is as disturbing and densely beautiful as its opening image, a lofty forest that dwarfs the gangsters as they laugh over their kill. There is an uncompromising magic about this primeval setting, until it comes over you like a wolf's shadow that this is where the brutal truly belong. --Rita Kempley
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers The least successful of these films— Miller’s Crossing—is the most traditional. A “realistic” drama (though the scenes of violence are highly stylized) with a well-developed plot line, this saga of Prohibition-era mobsters, like Scorsese’s Goodfellas [sic] (released the year before), aims to debunk the romantic tradition of the gangster film most tellingly exemplified by The Godfather (1972). The central character, a “good guy” high up in the organization, confusingly seems more a victim of his poor circumstances than a force to be reckoned with.... –R. Barton Palmer, The Film Directors Encyclopedia
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers The plot is otherwise dependent upon unbelievable characters and unlikely twists and turns. Some elements of parody are present, but are not well integrated into the film’s structure, indicating that the Coens were uncertain about how to proceed, whether to make a gangster film or send up the conventions of the genre. –R. Barton Palmer, The Film Directors Encyclopedia
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Tom Reagan Lines * If I'd known we were gonna cast our feelings into words, I'd've memorized the Song of Solomon. * Nobody knows anybody. Not that well. * Close your eyes ladies! I'm comin' in! * You don't hold elected office in this town. You run it because people think you do. They stop thinking it, you stop running it.]
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers [* [to Caspar] My chin's hanging out right next to yours. I'd worry a lot less if I thought you were worrying enough. * Tell Leo he's not God on the throne, he's just a cheap political boss with more hair tonic than brains. * If you want me to keep my mouth shut, it's gonna cost you some dough. I figure a thousand bucks is reasonable, so I want two.]
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Johnny Caspar * It's gettin' so a businessman can't expect no return from a fixed fight. Now, if you can't trust a fix, what can you trust? For a good return, you gotta go bettin' on chance - and then you're back with anarchy, right back in the jungle. * I'm talkin' about friendship. I'm talkin' about character. I'm talkin' about - hell. Leo, I ain't embarrassed to use the word - I'm talkin' about ethics. * You got references? You been to college? We ONLY take yeggs what's been to college, ain't that right, Dane? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! I'm joking, of course.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Johnny Caspar * Shut you son of a bitch! Son of a bitch! You stupid son of a bitch. * What is this, the high hat? * That son of a bitch! I had a feeling about this son of a bitch! We silence him! And we do the same to Mink this very night! * It's like I tell all of my boys. [Casper shoots Eddie Dane] Always put one in the brain! * You double-cross once - where's it all end? An interesting ethical question.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers * Eddie Dane * You are so goddamn smart. Except you ain't. * You killed Mink you son of a bitch! You killed Mink,and by God I'll hear you say it! * Then I wondered "Why would Einstein want to talk to a gorilla?" So I grab the gorilla and I beat it out of him. * Go ahead and run, sweetheart. I'm gonna cut down all of you whores. * I am gonna send you to a deep, dark place and I am gonna have fun doing it!
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Miscellaneous * Leo O'Bannion: [to Caspar] You ain't got a license to kill bookies and today I ain't sellin'. So take your flunky and dangle. * Verna: Maybe that's why I like you, Tom. I've never met anyone who made being a son of a bitch such a point of pride. * Tic-Tac: You gotta remember to put one in his BRAIN. Your first shot puts him down, then you put one in his BRAIN. Then he's dead. Then we go home.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Dialogue [Refering to Bernie] Leo: So you wanna kill him... Eddie Dane: For starters. Caspar: You think that I'm some guinea, fresh off the boat, and you can kick me! But I'm too big for that now. I'm sick a' takin the scrap from you, Leo. I'm a' of marching into this goddamn office to kiss your Irish ass. And I'M SICK A' THE HIGH HAT! [Puts on his hat and coat] Caspar: Youse fancy pants, all a youse.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Dialogue Leo: Johnny, you're exactly as big as I let you be, and no bigger, and don't forget it, ever. Caspar: That's right, Leo. You're the big shot around here, and I'm just some schnook likes to get slapped around. Tom: Think about what protecting Bernie gets us. Think about what offending Caspar loses us. Leo: Oh, come on, Tommy. You know I don't like to think. Tom: Yeah. Well, think about whether you should start.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Dialogue Leo: I reckon I can still trade body- blows with any man in this town. [Tom looks at him] Leo: Except you Tom. Tom: And Verna. Verna: Shouldn't you be doing your job? Tom': Intimidating helpless women is my job. Verna: Then go find one, and intimidate her.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Dialogue Bernie: I'm praying to you! Look in your heart! I'm praying to you! Look in your heart! I'm praying to you! Look in your heart! I'm praying to you! Look in your heart… I'm praying to you! Look in your heart. I'm praying to you... look in your heart... look in your heart! You can't kill me... look in your heart. Eddie Dane: Where's Leo? Hitman: If I tell you, how do I know you won't kill me? Eddie Dane: Because if you told me and I killed you and you were lying I wouldn't get to kill you then.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Dialogue Leo: They took his hair, Tommy. Jesus, that's strange, why would they do that? Tom: Maybe it was injuns. Verna: What're you chewin' over? Tom: Dream I had once. I was walkin' in the woods, I don't know why. Wind came up and blew me hat off. Verna: And you chased it, right? You ran and ran, finally caught up to it and you picked it up. But it wasn't a hat anymore and it changed into something else, something wonderful. Tom: Nah, it stayed a hat and no, I didn't chase it. Nothing more foolish than a man chasin' his hat.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) The Coen Brothers Dialogue Eddie Dane: How'd you get the fat lip? Tom: Old war wound. Acts up around morons. Bernie: Look in your heart! Look in your heart! Tom: What heart? [Tom shoots Bernie]
Coen Motifs: Howling Fat Men: Drop Johnson at Johnny Caspar’s Blustery Titans: Johnny Caspar Vomiting: Tom, twice, when hungover and at Miller’s Crossing when he’s about to be killed Violence: tons: the Dane’s slaughter of Leo’s guys at Verna’s; Caspar’s shovel to the face and bullet to the brain of the Dane; Bernie’s murder of Caspar; Tom’s murder of Bernie Dreams: Tom’s dream of losing his hat Peculiar Haircuts: All the gangsters (but Tom) Lost Hats: The opening credits, and Tom loses has his hat constantly. The Coen Brothers From Tricia Cooke and William Preston Robertson. The Big Lebowski: The Making of a Coen Brothers Film. New York: W. W. Norton, 1998: 16-23.