Miller’s Crossing

Miller’s Crossing

by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (1990)

Bernie Bernbaum has been sentenced to death by the Italian mafia.

Leo O’Brannon, head of the Irish underworld, stands up for him to win the favor of Verna, Bernie’s sister, unaware that she’s involved with Tom Reagan, his right-hand man.


“Dunque, l’accordo è che io ti do Bernie e tu mi dai lazza?”
“Sì, e siamo tutti quanti amici: tu, io, Leo, Eddie Dane…
“Ci penseremo su un istante, un giorno…”
“Non hai capito: l’amnesia è una situazione mentale. Che ne dici, allora?”
(Tom Reagan, Johnny Caspar, Eddie Dane)

Miller’s Crossing:
The original title of this film refers to a crossroads, a crossing. In other words, a passage.

And it is precisely in this image that the key to understanding the meaning of this work lies.

During any story, there can indeed be multiple types of characters who generally fall into two broad categories: those who undergo a process of growth and those who instead meet destruction.

And then there’s Tom Reagan, who remains still, like a lazy traveler forever undecided on which is the right direction to take.


An ambiguous and immobile man who sometimes appears cynical, ruthless, and opportunistic, and sometimes seems instead guided by loyalty to his boss and love for Verna.
The only thing that moves about him is the hat that keeps flying off, perhaps symbolizing his soul.
We are therefore faced with a character that is impossible to decipher and understand.
He remains stable, fixed, and impaled.
At the crossroads.
The Coen brothers, arriving at their third film, rewrite the rules of the gangster movie.

And they do so starting from an idea that is typical of this genre: the desire, by their own admission, to make a film set in the twenties, full of men with machine guns and trench coats.

But then the tone and manner of telling the story on screen change compared to the typical standards of the genre.

The reinterpretation decidedly veers towards the grotesque and the paradoxical, making fun of what is usually the classic relationship between honor, respect, life, and death.

In contrast, they present a universe populated by characters driven by deceit, selfishness, and the most base opportunism.

“Miller’s Crossing” is a beautiful and brilliant film, in my opinion.

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