5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Miller's Crossing  [DVD]  (DVD)
The boss of the dominant Irish gangsters stirs up a hornets' nest of trouble with the subordinate Italian gangsters over the Jewish brother of his girlfriend. His second in command has the burden of trying to calm things down and sort out the mess. He sees that the balance of power is likely to tip in favour of the Italians if the rumpus is allowed to escalate, but not before chaos reigns and a lot of profit is lost and people killed - and all for no good reason: just to win the favour of this woman who's only buttering up the boss to buy his protection for her worthless brother. To complicate matters, Tom (the second in command) is also secretly involved with the woman and he suspects she's only obliging him with her attentions, again, to help out her selfish, ungrateful brother. Also, Tom has a gambling problem that leads all the sleaze-merchants around him to believe they can buy his loyalty by paying off his debts. On top of all that, Tom seems to be afflicted with ethics - the biggest complication of all for a man who makes his living as a mobster. He doesn't appear to be cut out for the life at all. Apart from his ability to take a beating on an almost daily basis and survive relatively unscathed, he just doesn't seem to have what it takes to be a bad guy: the 'killer instinct'.
It's all a bit more complicated than that, but easy enough to follow and interesting enough to make it worthwhile. There are a few clever touches that impressed me in addition to the very sound basics of a good story and fine acting: The film manages to be dark and violent but with a smart, subtle script and great comic timing. It's a visual feast from beginning to end. It starts off in a still and tranquil forest - a situation that couldn't be further from the notion of mob violence. I wonder if Peter Jackson might not have got his idea from this film, of starting his Lord of the Rings trilogy (made over ten years later) in just such a lovely setting, to emphasise the contrast with the battles and terror to come later. Perhaps the similarity was just coincidence and it's simply the case that great minds think alike. Either way, the contrast of violence and beauty is very effective and the way the humour is threaded through the story like a string of pearls, makes the whole film sparkle.