This is a gangster film made by the creators of "Fargo" and "The Big Lebowski," Joel and Ethan Coen. Coming at the end of the 1980s, it not-so-subtly assesses that era via the guise of mobsters caught in a turf war between Irishman Leo O'Bannion (Albert Finney), and Italian Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito).
Stranded in the middle of this conflict is Leo's right-hand man, TomReagan (Gabriel Byrne). If you think Tom's last name is some sort of coincidence, you overestimate the ability of the Coens to deliver a metaphor with anything other than a blunt instrument. Tom's spent himself well past the "leg-breaking" level of debt with his bookie, and as a result has been forced to mortgage his future. Both Leo and Caspar try to buy his loyalty and eventually, Tom is forced to jettison his morality completely.
One image the Coens appear intent on cementing in the mind of their audience is a lovely one of these underworld characters doing some real male-bonding between the scenes. The love triangle between Tom, Leo and Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) is on the surface, while the one between Caspar's right-hand man, Eddie Dane (J.E. Freeman), Mink (Steve Buscemi) and Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro), is always lurking below the surface.
The knee-jerk liberal politics of the Coens is made glaringly obvious by their indictment of the world Reagan creates through his morality-destroying debt. To get anything more out of this movie takes multiple viewings because the Coens -- like most self-involved liberal filmmakers -- refuse to write a story that could possibly be accessed by simpler folk with actual jobs.
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