Picks and Pans Review: Miller's Crossing

updated 10/15/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/15/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Albert Finney, Gabriel Byrne

A labored, self-important epic about an Irish gang boss in an unnamed American city in 1929, this film should have been called The O'Godfather.

Directed by Joel (Raising Arizona) Coen (produced by his brother Ethan), it casts Finney as the head crook. As his right-hand man, the sublimely dull Byrne (Excalihur) is a compulsive gambler with self-destructive impulses—such as sleeping with Finney's girlfriend, newcomer Marcia Gay Harden.

The only one this film might help is Jon (The Freshman) Polito, who displays a certain ugly dignity as an Italian mobster trying to muscle in on Finney.

Byrne utters what the apparent theme of this movie is: "Nobody knows anybody—not that well." Otherwise, the Coens' script allows the film to be about exactly what Ethan has said it was supposed to be about: "Big guys in overcoats in the woods." And it's just as exciting as that sounds too. (R)

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