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Nothing more foolish than a man chasin' his hat.


Miller's Crossing
(1990)

Coen Brothers perfection, as their genre-hopping takes on prohibition-era gangsters in a gloriously labyrinthine plot. Gabriel Byrne is served the role of his career as fast-talking (well everyone in this is, pretty much) cool-hearted Tom Reagan, caught between rival mob bosses while being played himself.

There's not a weak link in the cast, but stand-outs are John Turturro's weird-walking odd-talking match fixer Bernie Bernbaum (the instigator of events), J E Freeman's Eddie Dane (original choice Peter Stormare was unavailable but Freeman commands attention not just through height, but by being almost taciturn compared to the rest of the cast, and uttering every line with venom - he doesn't seem to have had especially good roles since, Alien Resurrection is the only one that springs to mind), Albert Finney as Regan's boss Leo (a welcome return to the spotlight after a lumpy '80s - he only got offered the part because Trey Wilson died) and Jon Polito's hilarious Johnny Caspar.

Barry Sonnenfeld's cinematography is gorgeous (his last film before embarking on a patchy directing career) while Carter Burwell's score is undiminished despite its appropriation in those Caffreys adverts. Every scene here is memorable, but stand-outs include both of Regan's visits to the titular Crossing and Leo's incredibly cool response to an assassination attempt (to the sound of "Danny Boy"). The dialogue is wonderful ("Take your flunky and dangle", "They took his hair, Tommy. Jesus, that's strange, why would they do that?", "What is this, the high hat?" and most often asked, "What's the rumpus?")

One thing that stood out on this viewing was the number of scenes that continue for some time before a reveal gives a twist to what we think we've been seeing; Tom has a late night call from Leo and it's only after he's gone that we see Verna has been in his bedroom throughout, a conversation Tom is having on the phone goes on for some time before the discovery that Bernie has been sitting in front of him in a chair during it, and Tom's attempt to turn Caspar by spinning a yarn about the Dane looks like it's going well until the Dane's voice exposes that he's been listening in on everything. A masterpiece.

*****



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