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Miller’s Crossing

millers_crossing_poster1,750 words

Miller’s Crossing (1990) is the third Coen brothers movie, and in my eyes, it remains their best. Miller’s Crossing is set in an unnamed Midwestern city during the 1920s. (It was primarily filmed in New Orleans.) It tells the story of Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), who serves as advisor to two warring gangsters, Leo O’Bannon (Albert Finney) and Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito).

Miller’s Crossing has a superb script, excellent casting and performances, lush cinematography, bravura directing (particularly in the famous “Danny Boy” scene), and effective music. The wide, low-angle panoramas of interiors and the woodland scenes bring to mind similar settings similarly treated in Bertolucci’s The Conformist.

But the most remarkable thing about Miller’s Crossing is its message. Actually, there are two of them.

First, from start to finish, the movie deals explicitly with the virtue of rationality. Tom Reagan may be a criminal. He may drink and gamble too much. But his most salient trait is his rationality. He is a thinker. He uses his head and keeps his emotions in check.

The only mistakes he makes come from listening to his heart. He is a natural follower, not a leader, which makes him too deferential to his boss, Leo, even when Leo makes mistakes. He also has a strong distaste for violence. He has to master these tendencies to do the right thing.

Tom’s rationality is governed by an honor code. He pays his own debts, and he is loyal to Leo. Leo, however, does not listen to Tom’s advice, basing his decisions on his passions, which leads to a disastrous gang war.

Second, Miller’s Crossing features the most loathsome Jewish villain since Shylock, the bookie Bernie Bernbaum (played by John Turturro, who also played the title role in Barton Fink). Being a small-time grifter, Bernie is also a thinker, but unlike Tom, he has no moral compass whatsoever. Everything to him is just about “angles.” Bernie does, however, have some loyalty to his sister Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), who is similarly sociopathic, prostituting herself both to Leo and to Tom because Bernie sees an angle in it. Verna is so depraved, she even tried to seduce her brother, a homosexual, to “rescue him from his friends.”

Remarkably, the characters of Bernie and Verna Bernbaum provide object lessons in how Jews have hacked the Aryan mind—and how we can defend ourselves from them.

The movie begins with Johnny Caspar and his henchman Eddie Dane (J. E. Freeman—Marcellos Santos from David Lynch’s Wild at Heart) paying a visit to Leo and Tom. Leo is the head crime-boss in the city; Caspar is an independent operator who is subordinate to Leo. Both Caspar and Bernie Bernbaum pay Leo for “protection.” Bernbaum, however, is cheating Caspar on fixed fights, and Caspar is asking Leo for permission to kill the “shamatte” (Yiddish for “rag”).

It is a reasonable request, given the rules of their trade. Caspar is following the rules, Bernbaum breaking them. Caspar pays Leo a lot, Bernbaum a little. Caspar is too big to anger, but Bernbaum is not too big to kill. Leo glances at Tom, hoping for advice, but then arrogantly refuses Caspar’s request, enraging him. It is a mistake that will soon prove disastrous.

When Caspar leaves, Tom says, “Bad play, Leo.” To which Leo replies, “Tom, you know I don’t like to think.” Tom shoots back, “Think about whether you should start.”

Tom knows why Leo has decided to protect Bernie: Verna is sleeping with Leo. Tom suspects that Verna is also sleeping with him for the same reason. Verna is a grifter who plays men’s hearts. In one scene, she prods Tom to admit that he has a heart. In another scene, she claims that Leo defends Bernie because he has “a big heart.” Verna is another Queen Esther, the archetype of the Jewess who whores her way into positions of influence over powerful goyim in order to help her people. And as in the case of Esther, Verna’s influence leads the goyim to massacre one another, Purim-style, although with bullets and bombs, not gallows.

Lesson number one: Never have sex with Jews.

The mob war starts when Leo tasks a henchman, Rug Daniels, to keep an eye on Verna. When Daniels turns up dead, Leo blames Caspar, and the war commences. But Caspar had nothing to do with it. Tom suspects Verna killed Daniels to prevent him from discovering that she was sleeping with Tom as well as Leo. In fact, he was killed by Mink Larouie (Steve Buscemi), one of Verna’s drinking buddies that night, who is also in on Bernie’s scheme. (Mink is Eddie Dane’s butt boy, who relays information about Caspar’s fixes to Bernie.)

Tom is so loyal to Leo that he is willing to sacrifice himself to break Verna’s spell. He tells Leo that Verna and he are also sleeping together. Leo beats up Tom and expels him from his office. Tom then goes to work for Caspar. He tells Caspar Bernie’s location, and Caspar sends Tom and two henchmen to take Bernie on a ride out to Miller’s Crossing and kill him in the woods. When they arrive, one of the henchmen hands Tom a gun and tells him that he has been ordered to kill Bernie.

The scene is unforgettable. Tom marches Bernie into the woods. Bernie is hysterical, effeminate, and undignified—shrieking, sobbing, and begging for his life. Bernie recognizes that Tom is a kindred soul: they are not “muscle.” They commit crimes with their minds. He is a swindler. “It’s my nature, Tom,” he blubbers. They have no taste for killing. They are not like “those animals” waiting back at the car. Four times, he says that he can’t die in these woods like a “dumb animal.”

For “animal” here, read “goy.” In Barton Fink, the title character, also played by Turturro, shrieks at a bunch of soldiers and sailors that they are “animals” who have no appreciation for the mind.

Bernie falls to his knees, sobbing, “I’m praying to you. I’m praying to you. Look in your heart. Look in your heart.”

And lo: Tom Reagan has a heart after all. He fires a couple of shots in the air and tells Bernie to leave town. Bernie speeds away, his limbs windmilling spastically.

There is a similar scene in Barton Fink. When Karl “Madman” Mundt, who has just blasted two police detectives with a shotgun, accuses Barton of being a stuck-up elitist who doesn’t listen, Barton fears that he is next. If Mundt doesn’t kill him, the burning hotel will. He breaks down and offers a tearful apology, piercing the heart and deflecting the wrath of the big sentimental schmuck, who then frees him from being handcuffed to a bed in a burning building.

Both films, in short, portray how Jews turn our big hearts, our sentimentality, and our willingness to give people the benefit of the doubt against us.

Turturro’s performance is utterly riveting. Everything about Bernie is calculated to induce loathing, from his round-shouldered posture (also displayed in Barton Fink) to his undignified hyper-emotionality, oily insincerity, and physical cowardice.

John Turturro may be Italian-American, but he looks Jewish and excels at playing Jews, particularly negatively characterized Jews: Bernie Bernbaum, Barton Fink, and Herb Stempel in Quiz Show. Turturro certainly has had ample exposure to the tribe. He grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and is married to actress Katherine Borowitz.

A couple nights later, Tom has reason to regret listening to his heart. Bernie Bernbaum breaks into his apartment. He has decided not to leave town after all. He has been brooding over his humiliation in the woods. “It’s a painful memory.” He is grateful to Tom for sparing his life, but angrier that Tom put him in that position to begin with.

“You didn’t see the play you gave me,” he tells Tom. By sparing Bernie’s life, Tom has betrayed Caspar, and Bernie is now going to use that fact to blackmail him. And, he adds, he is also going to enjoy watching Tom “squirm.” It is an utter moral obscenity to blackmail the man who spared your life with the very fact that he spared your life.

When Bernie leaves, Tom grabs his gun and exits by a different door, hoping to intercept and kill him. But Bernie anticipates the move, trips Tom, kicks him in the face, then taunts him: “What were you going to do if you caught me? I’d just squirt a few, and you’d let me go.”

Later we learn that Bernie has killed his own friend Mink, mutilated his face, and dumped his corpse at Miller’s Crossing in case Caspar decides to confirm the kill.

Tom hatches a plan to get Caspar and Bernie in the same place, each looking to ambush the other. Tom plans to kill off the survivor, if any. This plan bothered me a bit, because although Johnny Caspar is brutal and grotesque (almost ruined by the Coens’ penchant for cartoonish caricature), he is still a likeable character: slightly less rational than Tom, but slightly more ethical. Tom, however, values peace, and maybe he sees Caspar’s death as the only way to end the war.

Bernie kills Caspar. Tom arrives on the scene and coolly offers to dispose of Bernie’s gun. Once Bernie has disarmed himself, Tom takes Caspar’s gun and points it at Bernie. He plans to shoot Bernie and make it look like Caspar did it.

Bernie is incredulous. “What’s in it for you? There’s no angle!” Because, of course, nobody would ever wish to rid the world of a Bernie Bernbaum for the common good, as a matter of general principle or simple hygiene.

Then Bernie starts in with the weeping and the praying: “Look in your heart! Look in your heart!”

“What heart?” replies Tom, who then puts a bullet in Bernie’s head.

This is lesson number two: Harden your heart; don’t be fooled by the tears. The Coen brothers, in short, have done something utterly astonishing—something that is, by all reigning standards, simply obscene. They have created a movie about how to kill Jews.

It is one thing for the Coens to portray how Jews manipulate whites. That could be interpreted as merely a Jewish in-joke. But it is quite another thing for them to show how we can protect ourselves from their manipulations. Thus Miller’s Crossing is a profoundly anti-Semitic film. Watch it, and ask yourself: Would Joseph Goebbels have changed a single frame?



  1. fredyetagain
    Posted June 22, 2015 at 3:45 am | Permalink

    We are too good for our own good. Jews play us like a violin. I hope we some day find our spine again.

    • Karen T
      Posted June 22, 2015 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Malignant Narcissists play anyone they can feed off, explaining all those Vampire myths,

  2. Posted June 22, 2015 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Thanks Trevor for a fascinating review.

    I’ve always heard that it’s a great film but have never gotten around to watching it.

    Can you speculate as to why the Coen brothers would make such a film with that kind of message to “goys”?


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  3. James O'Meara
    Posted June 22, 2015 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    “There is a similar scene in Barton Fink. ”

    In fact, there’s a similar scene in Fritz Lang’s “M,” which I believe the National Socialists recycled in The Eternal Jew to illustrate Jewish sympathies for degenerates.

    “It’s my nature, Tom,” he blubbers.

    Just as Lorre’s character “morden muss” (is driven to kill), hence cannot be punished with legitimacy.

    “They have no taste for killing. They are not like “those animals” waiting back at the car.”

    In both cases, the “judge and jury” are, in fact, murderers, which does lend a bit of plausibility to the claim. Lang was afraid the National Socialists would recognize themselves in the gangsters, and suppress the film, but Goebbels apparently thought it conveyed the idea that the Weimar Republic was helpless to defend its citizens and the law had to be taken over, so he was delighted with it.

    • Petronius
      Posted June 22, 2015 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Good point, there is definitely some of Peter Lorre’s self-pitying murderer in here. Of course also “Jud Suess” would whine and beg for his life in his end, telling everybody it was not his fault, though the reasons were different than in Lang’s movie.

      Early thirties US censorship also made sure that “Little Cesar” and “Scarface” cracked up in the end and lost their cool composure, so they would be demystified and could not seduce youths to go their wicked ways (incidentially, both were played by East-European-Jewish actors as well – Edward G. Robinson and Paul Muni- , though their characters were of Italian descent – kind of reverse Bernie Birnbaum/John Turturro).

  4. Peter Quint
    Posted June 22, 2015 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    This is a very complex film and I have yet to make a final decision about Tom’s dream sequences and his Machiavellian character. It is a great film in which The Coen brothers show us “the kike.” I wonder if this movie was made before or after Marlon Brando was humiliated by the jews. As you know Marlon Brando criticized the jewish film industry for never showing us “the kike.” When we go over “A Serious Man” again in the future, I have some insights to add about this brilliant work that criticizes the jews and their way of life.

  5. Ty
    Posted June 22, 2015 at 10:40 am | Permalink


    Off-Topic here but; has anyone ever commented to you on your site’s user-friendliness? In my case, this site takes a long time to load, a long time to go to the clicked-upon articles and it generally freezes up my computer and slows it down mightily. Is that on my end or have others made similar claims?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 22, 2015 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Maybe other people would like to chime in here, and I can bring it to the attention of our new webmaster, who is going to reinstall and upgrade the site.

      • Henrik
        Posted June 22, 2015 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        I have the same problem with slow load times on the home page.

        I suggest you tell your webmaster to turn on the developer tools in Google Chrome and then watch the “network” tab. There’s a lot of traffic going back and forth just on the initial load. Things stay pretty chatty even after the load is complete.

      • Roger Sutherland
        Posted June 22, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        I have the same experience as Ty. The website generally takes at least 35 seconds to fully load. I’m using Windows 8.1 and Google Chrome; this was also the case on my last computer, with a Linux OS. It can be annoying.

      • WN
        Posted June 22, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        I experience similar problems with the website. I read on my laptop and on my ipad and with both CC takes a very long time to load, often freezing for 15 to 30 seconds. On the ipad the screen remains blank as this happens. In fact, this is the second time I have written this comment because my laptop froze while attempting my first comment a few minutes ago and I had to back out and reload the page. This started getting worse after the announcement of the revamped website a few months back. Radix is similar but it actually freezes my laptop for so long that I have had to restart my entire computer. I will not even visit it anymore except on my ipad (where it loads smoothly). These are the only two sites that I visit regularly that have these problems.

        As for the review, I only read half of it because Miller’s Crossing is the one Coen Brothers movie I have yet to see and I want to watch it before I read the entire piece.

      • Verlis
        Posted June 23, 2015 at 3:39 am | Permalink

        Slowest loading site I read by far. It wouldn’t bother me if there were some important reason for it, but the site does not seem materially different to any other internet magazine so I don’t see why it should load so much more slowly.

    • Todd
      Posted June 22, 2015 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      Counter-Currents tries to load stuff from four other sites. One is a Youtube video, the others are from Amazon, Paypal and Cloudfront. The video should be eliminated. While Youtube works well on Youtube its video embedding scripts are notorious for crashing browsers. If you must have a video of the day just have a plain link to it. Amazon and Paypal are at least of value in selling CC books and making donations, so they can stay. Cloudfront is hosting images. That shouldn’t cause any problems, though bandwidth is now so cheap it’s better to host everything on your own server, problems with Cloudfront loading images can hang some browsers and their server is completely outside your control.

      In the mean time you can minimize browser crashes by shutting Javascript off. That will stop the Youtube embed from loading.

      Regarding the site redesign, make sure the written content still works without Javascript off/blocked. I use a proxy to read here and proxies can be unmasked with javascript.

  6. rhondda
    Posted June 22, 2015 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Verna as Queen Esther really opened up this movie for me. Thanks.

  7. rdub
    Posted June 22, 2015 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been eagerly awaiting this one, thanks for this review. Miller’s Crossing is a film I’ve revisited more than any of the Coens’ other films: it is my favorite Coen brothers movie, and is probably in my all-time top ten favorite movies.
    Great job on the review. In fact, the only thing missing, IMHO, is a mention of how well-written the dialogue is. Flat out amazing. I dropped Tom’s “song of Solomon” line in an argument with my beloved wife, and it not only defused the fight, but got her to finally watch the movie with me.
    I was already hip to the JQ when I first saw this one, but, man, you are right–this one, much like Inglorious Basterds, really showcases the sliminess of you know who.
    Thanks again, and congrats on year five of counter-currents: keep up the good work.

  8. Proofreader
    Posted June 23, 2015 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    The following footnote from Samuel Roth’s Jews Must Live is relevant to the conduct of Bernie and Tom in Miller’s Crossing:

    “The next time you read about a particularly bloody pogrom and pause to wonder how Christians, dedicated to a religion of mercy, can exercise so much brutality against the Jews, remember that the Jew wheedles all the mercy out of his neighbors in the ordinary course of business. He lies and cheats until he is caught. When caught, instead of accepting punishment, he moans and tears his hair, invokes the sores of ancestors in their graves and living relations at the point of death in hospitals, until the wronged gentile, nauseated, lets him go. Then, thumbing his nose at the gentile behind his back, the Jew goes about his business the same way, lying and cheating now doubly to make up for lost time. A pogrom is usually the climax of years of such relentless goading. Do you wonder that when the final reckoning comes the gentile is absolutely merciless?”

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 23, 2015 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

      Ooh, that’s good.

  9. Aristocles
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    What an excellent review, I decided I had to watch the movie before I read it for understanding and because I had this movie on my watch list for some time. I find it strange that the Coen brothers were not accused for being self-hating Jews for making this kind of Schanda für die Goyim, perhaps they thought most goyim would be too stupid to pick up on what you have anyways.

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