”Admit that you’ve got a heart, Tom, even though it may be small and feeble, and you can’t remember the last time you used it,” snarls moll Marcia Gay Harden to mobster Gabriel Byrne in Miller’s Crossing. There’s a lot more tough talk where that came from in this perverse, stylish, and somewhat high-strung gangster picture from the Coen brothers, who gave us Blood Simple (Joel directs, Ethan produces, they write their scripts together).
Mean, cynical, and self-conscious, gleaming with burnished 1920s period settings, Miller’s Crossing isn’t a ”story” movie. The elaborate double-crossings dealt by Byrne and other gangland denizens, including Albert Finney as a mob boss and John Turturro as a murkily homosexual flunky, seem mere ruses for grandstanding camera work. The violence, highlighted by an attempted hit on Finney (beautifully choreographed to Irish pop singer Frank Patterson’s rendition of ”Danny Boy”) is extravagant and executed with extraordinary panache. The movie’s action sequences are almost abstract, and they slake any thirst for sensation. If, however, you’re looking for compelling characters, all the lights are blazing here but nobody’s at home. B