Monday, 24 January 2011

Miller's Crossing

The soldier in the Green Room is caller Miller which is the link to a Coen Brother’s film, Miller’s Crossing which was distributed in 1990 long before I became aware of their offbeat and at times absurd, but always interesting film making. The film was highly rated by critics but failed at the box office, I suspect because none of the characters have appeal or engage our sympathy.. The film is set in a US town where the Mayor and the Police chief are as corrupt and criminal than the criminals. They are in the pay of the chief Gangster played as an Irish Tribal leader by Albert Finney who sees himself as a Lord of the Manor assisted by Gabriel Byrne, as a educated crime guru adviser, but who is also having sex with the girl also wanted by Finney as his wife. Her brother is a bookmaker.

Finney is visited by Johnny Casper, another gangster who specialises in fixing fights and who has come to complain about the bookmaker who he believes is passing the information that Casper is putting on money for a fighter to win a fight thus lowering the odds. Casper believes this is not ethical and demands that action is taken against the brother. Byrne advises his boss to surrender the protected bookmaker to avoid a war but Finney who generally has no scruples refuses because of his wish to marry the sister. There are various skirmishes, accusations and counter accusations, including spectacular attempt to assassinate Finney before Byrne admits that he was with the “Gangster’s Moll at one crucial occasion. and Finney beats the living daylights of his now former friend who he says he does not want to see again.

Byrne then makes himself available to Casper and to prove his new loyalty reveals the whereabouts of the bookmaker who is then picked up by Casper’s henchmen and taken to Miller’s Crossing where Byrne is told to kill the bookmaker, making sure by a second shot into the brain. The bookmaker pleads for his life and Byrne who has never killed before fires two shots and then tells the man to disappear.

He does not do so calling on Byrne to say that he has nowhere to go and will blackmail Byrne knowing that if Casper and his henchman finds out he has not been killed Byrne will also die. Meanwhile Casper has taken over the city from Finney and the police have become even more ruthless and criminal than before while the Mayor is kicked out of his office which Casper takes over.

There are two sub stories. The first is the relationship between Byrne and the number hard man of Casper who does not trust Byrne and fears he will be replaced. He insist on seeing the body of Byrne and warns Byrne that he will be killed if now body is found. At the site a body is eventually found with their blown away but in the clothing of Byrne, this is Monk another homosexual bookmaker who is then buried by his sister, who has also agreed to marry Finney at the wedding.

Part of Byrne’s solution tot he situation is to play both and leaders against each other and eventually he creates a situation where Casper kills his number 2. He then sets up a situation where the surviving bookmaker kills Casper and is killed by Byrne making is look that the two men have killed each other. This leaves Finney back in command and he forgives Byrne and pleads with him to return as his number two. Byrne declines. The other story is the relationship between the Gangster’s Moll and the two men. At one point she sets out to kill Byrne for killing her brother but cannot go through with it. It is left open if the relationship between the two will continue or she will marry Finney or do both. The problem for your average Saturday audience is that the characters are more comic, the magazine than funny or taken seriously with everything over the top. Byrne is regularly beaten up without ill effects. The Police participate in cold blooded killings and so on. Time Magazine put the film in the best 100 list. The film is a piece of nonsense and I challenge anyone to say that they are made to care about any of the characters other than they should die horribly and go to hell but as no one likes to have such feelings unless they are torturing criminal gangsters, the film was not supported.

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