Review of Miller’s Crossing
Today I continued in my Coen brothers binge and watched Miller’s Crossing. Anyone who has been reading my posts for the last week knows that I am a fan of the Coen brothers and that I enjoyed every movie of theirs that I have watched so far, but MC just doesn’t do anything for me. If you are not a fan of the Coens I would not recommend seeking it out, if you are, I would recommend seeing almost any other Coen film before giving this one a view. The story follows a man during the prohibition era who works for a gang, he then falls out of favor with the gang for insulting the boss and his girlfriend and responds by going to work for the rival gang in the same town. In the end nearly everyone involved with him dies and he returns to normal life. The story seems right up the alley of the Coens and I’m not entirely sure why this one rubbed me the wrong way, but there are a few things that I noticed which contributed to my dislike.
Thrown in at a fast pace:
Although Miller’s Crossing is overall paced slower than most other Coen films, it starts quickly. Not because of a huge event, but because the viewer is thrown directly into the world and given a bunch of names that mean nothing to them yet. Explaining why a character has disdain for another without giving us any information other than his name, then not showing us the hated character for another several scenes (and even when showing him not using his name) makes for a very confusing viewing. I felt like the first 30 minutes of the movie was spent figuring out who everyone was talking about and who was on which side, not the kind of task you want to burden a viewer with when trying to tell a compelling story.
To add to the confusion, nearly everyone in the movie speaks at lightning speed using period slang. Also, many people have terrible attempts at accents which they make painfully clear in one scene, then speak with no accent whatsoever in the next. It just seemed very sloppy compared to the other Coen movies I’ve been watching over the last week.
Abandon all movement:
I’m unsure on whether or not this was a purposeful choice, but because I’ve been watching the Coens’ complete directorial catalog I noticed that the camera work in MC is extremely static. Most of their films do have fairly still cameras during dialog sequences, but during nearly any other shot the camera is normally much more dynamic and there is typically a shot or 2 that are very creative, Miller’s Crossing has none. That is not to say that the cinematography wasn’t good, but it seemed much more amateur than the other offerings I’ve seen.