'Miller's Crossing' is a bloody bore

October 19, 1990|By Lou Cedrone | Lou Cedrone,Evening Sun Staff

IF YOU thought ''GoodFellas'' was violent, wait until you see ''Miller's Crossing.'' When it comes to bloodshed, this one has the Martin Scorsese film beat a mile.

That, however, is about the only area in which the new film beats the Scorsese film. Its trouble is that it isn't able to settle on any particular mood. It wants to be brutal and is. It also wants to be funny and is not.

''GoodFellas'' is funny, in part, but the humor is the natural sort. The humor in ''Miller's Crossing'' is self-conscious, contrived and never that successful.

The film hopes to mix gore with gag, but the combination is largely incompatible. It is difficult to laugh at these people, these doings, because the bloodletting is far too real, far too graphic, to bring the hoped-for laughs.

Beyond all this, the film for the most part is a bore, one in which all the actors sound as though they have been watching old gangster movies. They also talk cute at times. ''Aren't you the prickly pear?'' says one character.

The film takes place in the '20s, presumably in Chicago, where Gabriel Byrne is Tom, an Irish hood. So is Albert Finney, as Leo. Joe Polito is an Italian hood, and John Turturro is Bernie, a Jewish hood. The people who did this film apparently wanted to spread it around.

It is Turturro who takes the movie. As the weaseling Bernie, he begs for his life then shows little gratitude for the pity he is shown.

Turturro is well inside this character. He almost makes us laugh. Nobody else does.

Joel and Ethan Coen did the film. They both wrote it. Joel directed, and Ethan produced. Their first joint production was ''Blood Simple,'' a disappointing attempt at film noir. Their second was ''Raising Arizona,'' which, in its own cockamamie way, was good horse play, humor off the wall.

''Miller's Crossing'' hopes to be off the wall, too, but most of the time, it is on the floor. When it gets up, it is because of Bernie, who tries to blackmail Tom after Tom has done Bernie the greatest favor of all.

The plot has Byrne vacillating between one gang faction and another. It also has him sleeping with the girlfriend of one of the gang leaders, Leo, and Leo doesn't like that. Throughout the film, Tom tries to please both mobs and ends up getting beaten up by both, time and time again. Tom may be the most pummeled mobster in the history of the genre, and he never fights back.

''Miller's Crossing'' opens here today. It could set the gangster film genre back a few months.

"Miller's Crossing"

* Tom, a Chicago gangster, works with two mob factions, then makes the mistake of falling in love with the girlfriend of one of the mob leaders.

CAST: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden


RATING: R (language, violence)

RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.