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Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, Jon Polito, J.E. Freeman, Albert Finney, Steve Buscemi
Writing Credits:
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Dashiell Hammett (novels, "Red Harvest" and "Glass Key")

Up is down, black is white, and nothing is what it seems.

Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen create a complex and graphic vision of gangsterism set during Prohibition and featuring a riveting rouges' gallery of killers and con men. Leo (Albert Finney), a likeable Irish gangster boss, rules an Eastern city along with Tom (Gabriel Byrne), his trusted lieutenant and counselor. But just as their authority is challenged by an Italian underboss (Jon Polito) and his ruthless henchman (J.E. Freeman), Leo and Tom also fall for the same woman (Marcia Gay Harden). Tom, caught in the jaws of a gangland power struggle, walks a deadly tightrope as he tries to control and manipulate its violent outcome.

Box Office:
$14 million.
Domestic Gross
$5.080 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
German DTS 5.1
Italian DTS 5.1
Russian DTS 5.1
Castillian DTS 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 2.0
Turkish Dolby Digital 2.0
Brazilian Portuguese
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 8/30/2011

• “Shooting Miller’s Crossing: A Conversation with Barry Sonnenfeld” Featurette
• Interview Soundbites
• Still Gallery
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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Miller's Crossing [Blu-Ray] (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 14, 2012)

For years, I’ve regarded 1990’s Miller’s Crossing as being the best film by Joel and Ethan Coen. However, I don’t think I’ve seen the movie in a good 20 years. I’ve viewed an awful lot of flicks across those two decades, so I wanted to give Crossing another look to see if I still interpret it as positively as I did in 1990.

Set during the Prohibition era, Crossing follows some gangsters. Mob boss Johnny Caspar (John Polito) feels cheated by Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) and wants rival Leo (Albert Finney) to allow him to kill Bernie, who’s one of Leo’s “boys”. Leo refuses, partially because he dates Bernie’s sister Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) – a lady who sleeps with Leo’s right-hand man Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) on the side. Tensions intensify as complications ensue and violence escalates as the two camps deal with each other.

1990 marked a big year for gangster movies. In addition to Crossing, we got The Godfather Part III and GoodFellas, two higher-profile efforts. Those essentially left Crossing in the dust; they received more press and made more money.

Did they deserve greater notoriety? In the case of Godfather III, definitely not; it’s a mediocre movie that reached an audience solely due to its pedigree.

The GoodFellas vs. Crossing debate presents a more difficult topic. To a large degree, this is an apples/oranges situation; while both movies deal with mobsters, they’re radically different in most ways. GoodFellas spans decades and is a wilder, more epic tale, while Crossing takes place over a short period and is a much simpler, more elemental tale. Essentially all the events revolve around the fate of Bernie and how this affects the others. It’s more insular and less dynamic.

But not less dramatic, as Crossing manages a deep, rich tale. I do prefer the daring grandeur of GoodFellas, but I respect and like the manner in which Crossing treats its material. It’s easy to take such criminal enterprises and turn them into popcorn fare, but Crossing opts for a more thoughtful exploration.

Don’t interpret that to mean the film plods or bores, for it doesn’t. It’s just slick and stylized enough to crackle but it’s not overly precious with the material. Crossing occasionally teeters on the edge of self-parody but it never quite goes there.

This means it lacks the ironic distance typical of most Coen fare. While chilly – another contrast with the hot-blooded GoodFellas - Crossing still musters a lot of emotion. I would worry that the Coens would make the effort rather clinical, but that never becomes a concern; the film manages a good emotional punch when necessary.

It also provides arguably the most difficult lead role of the 1990 mobster films. With Godfather III and GoodFellas, we got broad, larger than life main characters, but Tom doesn’t function in that way. He’s far too cold to engender much emotion from the audience, and we find it hard to get much of a handle on him. This makes him more distant from the viewer but not less engaging, as we struggle to make up our minds about him.

Add to that a well-told story, a tight script and a good sense of style and Miller’s Crossing remains a winner after more than 20 years. It’s a semi-unsung classic in the Coen filmography.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Miller’s Crossing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The transfer provided a decent but not often impressive visual presentation.

Sharpness was the main concern. While most scenes demonstrated nice clarity, others came across as a bit soft and bland. Overall definition was fine, but the image sometimes lacked the tightness I expect of Blu-ray. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no noticeable concerns, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws were inconsequential. I saw a couple of small specks but that was it.

As expected from a period piece, Crossing maintained a stylized tone. As such, it offered a restricted palette, and very few bright or vivid hues appeared. When appropriate, the colors looked solid, and they came across as accurate and concise as a whole. Black levels were reasonably deep and dark, and shadow detail looked appropriately clear but not excessively opaque. The softness and source defects knocked this one down to “C+” level; it’s not a bad transfer, but it lacked something to make it stronger.

For the most part, the DTS-HD MA 5.1soundfield remained oriented toward the front speakers. There the music showed decent stereo separation, and a variety of elements cropped up from the side channels. These blended well and created a good layer of atmosphere. The surrounds contributed mild punch at times – such as during the assault on Leo’s house – but usually they stayed fairly subdued and offered mainly reinforcement of the forward spectrum. Nonetheless, they did what they needed to do and gave the audio a good sense of place.

Audio quality held up well after the last 20-plus years. Speech sounded natural and concise, without edginess or other distractions. Music displayed nice range and vibrancy, as the score appeared full and rich. Effects also demonstrated solid definition. Those elements showed good accuracy and packed a decent punch when necessary, such as during the more violent sequences. All in all, this was a consistently positive auditory experience.

A few extras fill out the disc. Shooting Miller’s Crossing: A Conversation with Barry Sonnenfeld runs 16 minutes, 30 seconds as it offers comments from the film’s director of photography. He chats about his career and how he got into movies as well as his relationship with the Coens, his trademark visual style, and aspects of shooting Crossing. Sonnenfeld delivers a chatty piece with lots of interesting notes, so this ends up as a worthwhile program.

Interview Soundbites fill a total of eight minutes, 34 seconds and include chats with actors Gabriel Byrne (4:08), Marcia Gay Harden (2:33), and John Turturro (1:51). Shot back in 1990, they discuss aspects of the movie, their characters and other elements. Some decent comments emerge, but this is usually pretty standard EPK material.

In addition to the movie’s trailer, we get a Still Gallery. It provides 20 photos from the shoot. These are moderately interesting but not much more than that.

While overshadowed by more famous efforts from the Coen brothers, I think Miller’s Crossing probably deserves to stand at the top of their filmography. It shows their strengths as filmmakers but avoids the usual self-conscious pitfalls that mar so much of their work. The Blu-ray provides acceptable to good picture and audio along with a few decent supplements. Although the Blu-ray doesn’t excel, it presents a very good movie in a more than competent fashion.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7692 Stars Number of Votes: 13
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