Miller's Crossing

dir. Joel Coen

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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The Coen brothers riff on the hard-boiled oeuvre of Dashiell Hammett in this 1930s-set gangster drama about a tight-lipped tough guy (Gabriel Byrne) who finds his loyalty to an Irish crime boss (Albert Finney) put to the test.

A hard-boiled, stunningly stylized 1930s-set riff on Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest and The Glass Key, the Coens' third feature finds them at their genre-revisionist best, creating a film that is both a commentary on and an exemplar of the gangster-movie genre. Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), a tight-lipped tough guy with a strict moral code, finds his loyalty to Irish crime boss Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney) put to the test when Leo goes out on a limb to protect the bookie brother (John Turturro) of his mistress (and Tom's long-term secret lover) Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) from a rival mobster. When Tom reveals his and Verna's affair to Leo in an effort to avoid a destructive gang war, Leo kicks him out of the organization, forcing Tom to play both sides of the street if he's going to make it out alive. Elevating crime-movie archetypes to the level of myth, Miller's Crossing is "a superb, languid fantasia on the theme of the gangster film that repays endless viewing" (David Thomson); "An elegy to a day when Hollywood could locate moral gravity in a genre film for grownups" (Richard Corliss, Time Magazine).