Monday, August 23, 2010

Blarney and Bullets!

A few friends find unlimited joy in making fun of my taste in television shows. Particularly when I try to get them to watch Top Gear on BBC America. Now I know very little about cars. Sure, I can maintain a few things but when it comes to actual car knowledge my philosophy is:

I break it. Mechanic fixes it. Together we're a team.

But it is a car show with actual automotive knowledge distribution. But that doesn't matter because I can't afford any of the cars portrayed on the show anyway. Yet. BWA-HAHAHAHAHA! *cough* sorry. Actually, even the American made cars on the show are models they don't sell in America so there's no value there either. The show is great because of the dry and (often) self-effacing humor of the hosts. Any other description would not do it justice, you just have to see it for yourself.

While I was searching the channels one night to find an episode of Top Gear, I noticed a movie that I once had interest in seeing but not enough to pay for it. Miller's Crossing(1990) was coming on another station so I hit 'record' and noticed it was getting late so I recorded the episode of Top Gear also and went to bed.

When I finally found time to watch Miller's Crossing I found out it was a Cohen Brother's film. Despite that fact it had no young married couples trying to kidnap a baby, no 1930's chain gangers re-enacting the Odyssey, and even though it was a gangster movie, it had no hit-men being shoved in wood-chippers. This one is about an Irish mobster in the early 1930s that gets involved in a made for TV plot line. Ooh, that was kind of a harsh way to start this. Allow me to start over.

Tom (Gabriel Byrne) is the main character in this version of the prohibition mobster movie. But the strange part is, there is no "big score" or "big take down" or "escape" theme to the story. It's also not the "Biography of Tom the Mobster". So what is it? Well, for starters Tom is an advisor to a New York crime boss, not the typical drug dealer, stick-up man, assassin, or wheel man of your typical gangster movie. So he's already made it pretty far in his chosen profession. But he's got problems. He's in way over his head with bad gambling debt and he can't stop making those bad bets. His boss Leo (Albert Finney) doesn't seem to care what Tom thinks even though he's his advisor and truly seems to like Tom. He's in a love/hate relationship with Verna (Marcia Gay Hardin) that is indifferent to him as he is to her. I know, that sounds like it doesn't make sense, but if you see the movie you know what I mean. Overall he's an aggressively unappealing character. Add this room-clearing personality to a plot that has no main direction and you've got a made for TV movie. Albeit with really good directors.

Why Doesn't Tom Care?

I know I've been kind of vague about what the plot is, well that's because it's not very memorable. Tom is trying to stop a gang war between his boss and another boss. That seems like you could make a pretty good story from that right? Well, yes but then you'd probably have the main character actually apply some effort to his task. That didn't happen here. I thought, maybe if I compared this to another mobster movie, a classic, then I'd learn a little about why this one didn't appeal to me. So I watched The Public Enemy with James Cagney from 1931. This one didn't have a "big score" plot either but it was a "story of my life" movie and apparently a very popular one since it was played 24 hours a day to packed movie theaters for a while after it was released.

If this post wasn't so long already I'd break down some other mobster movies and compare them to this one so I'll be happy to leave that conversation to the comments section.

So if you want a mobster movie about a slacker wiseguy that really doesn't care about his life, job, or the people he associates with then I highly recommend Miller's Crossing to you. Otherwise go rent The Godfather, The Godfather part II, Goodfella's, Casino, or even The Public Enemy if you haven't seen it before. Just don't lose sleep over missing Miller's Crossing, and by the way don't ever watch The Godfather Part III. PeeeYoooo! What a stinker that was!

Trailer for Millers Crossing

Trailer for The Public Enemy

Trailer for The Godfather

Trailer for The Godfather Part II

Trailer for Goodfellas

Trailer for Casino

Top Gear TV show

I refuse to link to anything involving The Godfather Part III