The duplicitous aide to a corrupt and powerful politician is caught in the crossfire between two rival gangsters.
Miller's Crossing is the nearest thing that the Coen brothers have produced to a classic literary tale. It may have all the gangster genre signifiers - Tommy guns, warring mob bosses, double-crosses and Prohibition liquor - but you soon begin to realise that this is merely the outer shell.
The setting is really no more significant than a Hitchcock MacGuffin; any period could suffice. The true importance lies in a story of Shakespearean stature - a timeless tale of humanity, with the film's themes summed up acutely in an early line of dialogue: "Friendship, character, ethics."
It is the idea of friendship (chiefly male relationships) which consistently recurs, played out by characters whose actions shatter their outwardly archetypal moulds. In Gabriel Byrne's consigliere figure Tom there are intriguing contradictions; neither hero nor anti-hero, calculated but careless, faithful but also treacherous, he remains the one enigmatic character to whom we are curiously drawn.
On the visual side, it's as warm as Irish whisky, exhibiting a graphic novel framing and wonderfully graceful camerawork - check Albert Finney's gun-toting, slipper-wearing stroll down his residential street. One of the most accessible works from the siblings, this treads that often fine line between cult and mainstream.
With suddenly dark moments and trademark inflections in the script, it remains typically Coen unorthodox - another intriguing contradiction.