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It's 1929 in Chicago, a time of promiscuity, prohibition and black markets. The streets might be run by wisened gangster Leo (Albert Finney), but it's his right-hand man Tom (Gabriel Byrne) who wields the real power. Their friendship is put to the test when they both fall for Verna (Marcia Gay Harden). When her no-good brother (John Turturro) further splits Tom's loyalty, rival gangster Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) smells an opportunity at hand. When the gangs go to war, it's everyone for themselves.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Regarded by many as the Coen brothers' finest film, this stylish, intimate 1990 thriller about Chicago mobsters in the roaring '20s is indeed one of the best gangster film ever made. Not as frenetic as Scorsese's Goodfellas nor as sprawling as Coppolla's Godfather trilogy, Miller's Crossing is an up-close look at love, loyalty, rivalry, betrayal and revenge during a time when tommy guns and fedora hats were as de rigueur as whiskey neat and getting whacked. It's been a personal favourite of mine ever since I saw that unforgettable scene in which John Turturro pleads for his life in the woods ("Look into your heart," he begs repeatedly on his knees). Not to mention the stunning sequence to the tune of Danny Boy where Albert Finney, noticing smoke rising through the floor boards, calmly butts his cigar, slides on his slippers, and takes his tommy gun to the gangsters that have come to kill him. 

Released for the first time in Australia as a two-disc special edition DVD, Miller's Crossing looks and sounds more glorious than ever. And the DVD reveals just how much influence cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld – working on his third and last Coen movie after shooting Blood Simple and Raising Arizona - has had on the brothers’ trademark style. In fact, the first feature on the disk, Shooting Miller's Crossing, plays like a tribute to Sonnenfeld, who just wanted to make a "handsome movie about men in hats". He discusses those sweeping wide-shots and intimate close-ups, his lens choice and weather predictions, and how he went from shooting porno films to Blood Simple. His featurette is the longest extra feature, but you really get a feeling that he was, in a sense, the third Coen. Apart from a stills gallery,
the only other extras are brief but inspired sound bites with Byrne, Turturro, and Gay Harden. Byrne describes the Coens as "brilliant filmmakers who will spawn imitators", and likens Harden to a strong Barbara Stanwyck.

Harden, however, likens herself to a fleshy faced Jean Harlow, and jokes about how she put a lot of emphasis on her eyebrows to convey the right look for the period - though Joel Coen quipped "this isn't a vampire movie!" Released simultaneously to special edition DVD with Fargo, Miller's Crossing is light on extras but the film is loaded with beautiful music, sublime cinematography and fine performances. And that makes it, quite simply, a must have for all movie buffs.

Published July 31, 2003

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(US) - 1990

CAST: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, John Polito, J E Freeman, Steve Buscemi.


DIRECTOR: Joel and Ethan Coen

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1:85:1 16:9, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Shooting Miller's Crossing - A Conversation with Barry Sonnenfeld, Interview Sound Bites, Theatrical Trailers and Stills Gallery

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: June 18, 2003

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