The Coen brothers' lush gangster melodrama (1990), set in an unnamed eastern city in 1929. Self-conscious and show-offy, the film shows some progress over the Coens' earlier efforts—if only because of the allure and energy of the cast. Yet it never fully convinces in terms of either period or plot. Gabriel Byrne plays an Irish gangster and pal of Irish city boss Albert Finney, and the two split over a Jewish moll (Marcia Gay Harden) whose brother (John Turturro) is set to be bumped off; Byrne then goes to work for the Italian kingpin in town (Jon Polito). The novels of Dashiell Hammett were reportedly the main inspiration here, but if much of what's best about Hammett came from personal acquaintance with his gangster milieu, the Coens' only acquaintance is with Hammett's novels, and even an actor of Finney's skill can't make us believe his self-deceiving character could rule a city.
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The film festival returns for its eighth consecutive year at the Music Box.