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Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Set in 1929, a political boss and his advisor have a parting of the ways when they both fall for the same woman, which eventually leads to citywide gang war.
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 2/8/2022

• “Hard Boiled” Featurette
• “The Actors” Featurette
• “The Music” Featurette
• “The Look” Featurette
• “The Design” Featurette
• “From the Archives” Featurette
• Booklet


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

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 24, 2022)

1990 marked a big year for gangster movies. We found three major releases in the genre: The Godfather Part III and GoodFellas, and Miller’s Crossing. The first two essentially left Crossing in the dust, as they received more press and made more money.

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

The GoodFellas vs. Crossing debate presents a more difficult topic. 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.

Leo refuses, partially because he dates 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.

To a large degree, GoodFellas vs. Crossing offers 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 take.

Don’t take 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 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, tight script and good sense of style and Miller’s Crossing remains a winner after more than 30 years. It’s the semi-unsung classic in the Coen filmography.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Miller’s Crossing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The transfer replicated the source well.

Sharpness worked fine most of the time. A few slightly soft shots materialized, but these seemed organic to the original photography and created minor distractions at worst.

Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no noticeable concerns, and I noticed no edge haloes. Grain felt natural, and I saw no signs of print flaws.

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. This was a more than adequate presentation.

For the most part, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield 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 32 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 adequate auditory experience.

How did the Criterion Blu-ray compare to the original Blu-ray from 2011? Audio felt similar, if not identical, as both DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks sounded an awful lot alike.

As for visuals, the Criterion disc offered a cleaner presentation that also appeared better defined. This turned into an appealing upgrade.

The Criterion release mostly involves new extras, and we open with Hard Boiled, a 28-minute, 44-second interview with writers/directors Joel and Ethan Coen. Conducted by author Megan Abbott, they discuss film noir and aspects of Crossing. This becomes an introspective and compelling view of the subject matter.

The Actors delivers a 32-minute, 23-second piece that features actors Gabriel Byrne and John Turturro. Along with Abbott, the two sit together and chat about how they got their Crossing roles as well as their experiences during the shoot and related domains.

It’s fun to have Byrne and Turturro together, as this combination allows for good interactions. We find plenty of fine insights here.

Next comes The Music, a 16-minute, 41-second reel with composer Carter Burwell and music editor Todd Kasow. Unsurprisingly, they discuss their work on the film and makes this another compelling view of the subject matter.

The Look goes for 15 minutes, 12 seconds and features director of photography Barry Sonnenfeld. He examines his collaborations with the Coens and specifics about his work in this highly informative chat.

With The Design, we find a 10-minute, two-second segment from production designer Dennis Gassner. He looks at aspects of his choices for the movie in this fairly engaging – though a little less than concrete – discussion.

From the Archives provides a 13-minute, 49-second collection of older clips. Shot back in 1990, actors Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro and Jon Polito discuss aspects of the movie, their characters and other elements. Some of this feels superficial, but we get enough good material to make the reel worth a look.

The package also comes with a booklet that offers credits, images and an essay from critic Glenn Kenny. It’s not one of Criterion’s best leaflets, but it adds some value.

While overshadowed by the more famous efforts from the Coen brothers, I think Miller’s Crossing probably deserves to stand at the top of their heap. It shows their strengths as filmmakers but avoids the usual self-conscious pitfalls that mar some of their work. The Blu-ray provides positive picture and audio along with an appealing array of supplements. The Blu-ray presents a very good movie in more than competent fashion.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of MILLER'S CROSSING

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