The book Red Harvest and the movie Miller’s Crossing do have some similarities but are in some ways quite different. They both focus around one man who is stirring up all of the trouble within the corrupt cities, both men in a second-hand-man position. The main difference between the two is that in the movie, the second-hand-man Tom has been advising his corrupt boss Leo while he was still in power. In the novel Red Harvest the second-hand-man is a Continental Op brought in to investigate a murder and then continued on in the city to clean it of corruption. Both Tom and the Op use their knowledge and skills to obtain and analyze information to start gang wars between all of the rivals in both cities, they play each one of the bosses.
I also thought it was interesting how their were similarities in between the way the original corrupt runners of the cities go back into power, after having lost it to the other corrupts in the towns. Both the Op and Tom end up not sticking around to see what becomes of the cities after the deadly gang war, but the Op had cleaned the city up, where as Tom had merely gotten rid of the competition for Leo to continue business as usual.
I wouldn’t say the Op was a bad guy, but I would have to lean towards saying that about Tom. He tried not to kill anyone, that wasn’t his style, but he did end up killing Bernie. But Bernie betrayed him, used him, and blackmailed him. Maybe he would have been killed sooner or later, but it shouldn’t have been Tom the one to do it.
Also, both of them end up having love affairs with figures that could easily be deemed femme fatales. Both of the women use deceitful and lustful tactics to get what they want, but really neither of them do. Brand ends up being killed and all she wanted was money, Verna just wanted her brother Bernie to stay alive, but Tom makes sure that doesn’t happen.
One thing I did like is how much more active Leo was in his role, as opposed to old Elihu.