June 3, 2011

Justify My Netflix: Miller's Crossing

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Miller's Crossing

Today's movie: Miller's Crossing, 1990 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is one of the few early Coen Brothers movies that I missed when it was first out in theaters in the early '90s, so I thought I'd finally watch it as part of my quest to eventually become a completist of these two filmmakers. (This now makes it nine of their sixteen films I've seen, most of them from the first half of their career.)

The reality: Yep, just as good as the others! In this case, the Coens take us into the world of urban gangsters in an unnamed city in the Roaring '20s, a film much more along the "serious complicated noir" line of Blood Simple than the absurdist comedy of Raising Arizona, with the always great Gabriel Byrne playing a mid-level heavy caught between the competing forces of his loudmouth boss (Albert Finney in one of the best performances of his career), a crooked bookie played with glorious nebbishness by John Turturro, and Marcia Gay Harden as the bookie's sister, who just happens to be Finney's girlfriend too and is having an affair with Byrne for good measure. Add some crackling dialogue, breath-taking cinematography, and a commitment to the look and feel of a specific historical period so obsessive that you can't help but admire it just for the details alone, and you're left with what the Coens have pretty much become famous for, a formula they keep putting together and putting together in slightly different ways for a huge success nearly every time, all the way up to the Oscar-winning True Grit of just last year (which by the way is number two in my Netflix queue as we speak). A day where I see a Coen Brothers movie is always a good day, and especially in this case where I got to see a forgotten classic for the very first time.

Strangest piece of trivia: The brothers wrote the entire script for their more infamous Barton Fink in a frenzied three weeks in the middle of Miller's Crossing, while suffering from writer's block on the former; subsequently, this film features several small references to that one, including a newspaper headline in one scene referring to the fire that ends Fink.

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:46 AM, June 3, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |