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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In his career as a mobster, Benjamin Siegel acquired the nickname Bugsy, a
name he detested. Barry Levinson's 1991 film, "Bugsy," never explains how
Siegel came to be known as Bugsy, but it does portray his annoyance at being
addressed as such. Several folks get their faces smashed after using the
offending title, but though Bugsy, er Ben Siegel, is not above violence, he
is more concerned with self-improvement. He repeats non-sensical phrases
meant to improve his diction, and applies cold creme to his face and
cucumber slices to his eyelids to promote a more youthful appearance. And,
who knows, like his buddy George Raft, Bugsy, er Ben, thinks that maybe he
has what it takes to be a movie star.
Whether it's meant to report the truth or simply to inflate the legend, "Bugsy," named best picture of 1991 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a fascinating portrait of a superficial man, one for whom money was "dirty paper" that could be acquired as easily as it could be spent, and mug shots were shameful only if they didn't show off a tan. As played by Warren Beatty, Siegel's preoccupation with glamour and general politeness come across more effectively than his occasional brutality, but Beatty finds a proper fit all the same. Also effective is Ben Kingsley as Meyer Lansky, Annette Bening as Virginia Hill, the woman for whom Siegel falls hard, Elliott Gould as a dim-witted and ill-fated friend, and, above all else, Harvey Keitel as Mickey Cohen. Less impressive is Joe Mantegna, miscast as George Raft. Mantegna is too soft in both voice and appearance to accurately convey the street origins of the silver screen's coin flipping tough guy, but this otherwise fine actor's poorly etched portrayal is too minor a flaw to damage the movie.
Like Hitler, Siegel's insecurities led him to build monuments to his own ego, as if intent on finding some kind of immortality. For Siegel, the monument was the Flamingo Hotel in the barren Nevada desert. Siegel's vision ultimately led to his death at the hands of his financiers who were enraged at the escalating costs of his oasis in the desert, but it also, if the film is to be believed, led to the birth of the gambling and entertainment capital that Las Vegas would become. There are those who challenge this view, but, fantasy or fact, "Bugsy" is top-notch entertainment.
I have to say when I rented this golden-oldie which so happened to be nominated for Best Picture at the 1991 Osars, I have to say, I wasn't really expecting much. I heard mixed things about it, and the idea of Warren Beatty playing a vicious mobster kind of seemed unbelievable to me (he did a great job in 'Bonnie and Clyde' but that was a little different.) In all honesty, I really found 'Bugsy' to not only be a very entertaining and enjoyable film, but also very well-made and Oscar-worthy one. Warren Beatty gives an unprecedented performance as the tough mafioso, Bugsy Siegel, who first had the idea of putting casinos in Las Vegas. Annette Bening in an equally brilliant performance plays Bugsy's calculating goomar. The supporting cast is very solid with strong performances from Elliot Gould, Joe Mantegna as actor George Raft, and especially Ben Kingsley as the swift and smart mobster with a heart of gold and Harvey Keital as the mean and ruthless killer who becomes partners with Siegel to start up a hotel/casino. Barry Levinson does a great job directing this period piece which is true to the period (the 1940s), and the screenplay isn't half bad either. Beatty, Keital and Kingsley picked up Oscar nods, along with Levinson for Best Director and the wonderful Annette Bening was somehow unfairly snubbed. If you want to see a cool mob picture that takes place in the 40s, why don't you give 'Bugsy' a shot? It's worth it. Grade: B+
I personally thought "Bugsy" was the best film of 1991 and should have beaten "The Silence of the Lambs" for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The movie looks great, has great acting all around and Barry Levinson is in top form. Best of all, "Bugsy" avoids most, if not all, cliches that are usually found in gangster movies. If you want a good solid film about a real life crime figure, this is the one. If you want hackneyed, worn out cliches that go nowhere and leave a feeling of unsatisfaction, I would recommend "Mobsters" or "Billy Bathgate".
Barry Levinson's film 'Bugsy' should be considered one of the greatest
gangster movies ever made. Combining a moving plot, first-class acting,
superb directing, and an award-worthy score, 'Bugsy' rises above both
period-piece movies and pointless gangster flicks.
The plot of the film follows the events in mobster Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel's life that culminated in both the founding of Las Vegas and his own death. As the plot includes Siegel's relationship with Virginia Hill, it also shows his deteriorating relationship with his family (wife Esta and children) and associates (including Meyer Lansky and Charlie Luciano), and it also looks at Siegel's fascination with becoming a celebrity. Most prominently, though, is his dream of creating something: that something which was the hotel and casino Flamingo. And it is this plot, which artfully switches back and forth between Siegel's personal and business lives, that sets the film upon a pedestal (so to speak). It is this blending of personal and professional which sets Bugsy apart from other gangsters by making him human. Yes, he may be a heartless killer, a faithless philanderer, remorseless criminal, hopeless dreamer, but those very characteristics are the same which make him more than the run-of-the-mill gangster. The myth dissolves as the man emerges; and the audience sympathizes with Siegel, even if they do not approve of him.
To say that the acting is excellent hardly does the actors justice. Beatty is a complex and intense Siegel, driven by his passions, weighted by his faults, and, ultimately, just another flawed individual and not (as Siegel once thought) indestructible. Played by Bening, Virginia Hill is Siegel's strong counterpoint whose own ambitious and self-interested exterior is underscored by a caring and sincere interior. Mickey Cohen is very understated of character, sometimes communicating more than just his words, a feat performed flawlessly by Keitel. Kingsley, as Meyer Lansky, is touchingly caring of his friend Siegel, torn between their friendship and his own professionalism. And the rest of the supporting cast--including Mantegna, Gould, Sarafian, and Graham--is talented, and each has an irreplaceable role in the film.
Barry Levinson's directing makes the film all the more special. The shots and angles are all completely appropriate. The style even seems to lend itself to the feel of the era (with the help of great lighting and costuming). At times, the action moves staccato and sharp: all business. And then the flow slows down to a more leisurely pace (like the era). At times, the directing is even elegant, as in the scene at Siegel's house with Virginia, where the camera pans to show the two's silhouettes on a projection screen; or during their love scene, where the time progresses as the camera follows the trail of clothing to the bed, when it has become morning; or two of the final scenes outside the Flamingo (one of Siegel waiting for patrons who do not arrive, the other of he and Virginia united for a final time) as the rain pours down from a night sky. Levinson covers a tremendous amount of ground (due to the numerous sub-plots) while keeping the momentum. And the score of the film, (deserving more awards than it received) of 1940's songs (including 'Why Don't You Do Right (Get Me Some Money Too!)' and 'Candy')and Ennio Morricone's original compositions, not only sets the tone, but the time period. 'For Her, For Him' and 'Act of Faith' in particular are simply captivating, but the entire score is truly a masterpiece.
For such reasons, 'Bugsy' is a pleasure to watch over again, and is destined to become a classic.
A big elegant movie, beautiful in every sense of the word, a fascinating story of the man who created Las Vegas and Warren Beatty is perfect in this movie. If you're not a huge fan of his, as I am not, you'll still appreciate the great talents of this star who is not necessarily known for his acting prowess. He is a joy to watch with the gorgeous Annette Bening Beatty. They have a great chemistry and all the actors involved were fantastic, there were many oscar nominations for all aspects of this film, acting, costumes, best film, best director, but when I saw that that Elliott Gould was not nominated for his wonderfully moving performance as Harry Greenberg, I was very surprised. Maybe it was just too small of a role. But it's a movie to be savoured and worth seeing on DVD, if anything just to appreciate the stunning photography.
Highly emotional and vastly outstanding film from director Barry Levinson (Oscar-nominated) follows the true start of Las Vegas as a gambling mecca due to the role of the titled character (Warren Beatty in an Oscar-nominated performance and arguably his finest cinematic turn). The gangster is bad news in the mid-1930s in New York. He takes a business trip to Los Angeles and quickly falls in love with the weather, the surroundings and of course a beautiful woman who is little more than a high-class prostitute (Annette Bening). His wife and kids will just have to take a backseat now to his new-found life. One day Beatty takes a long road trip to a small desert town in Nevada called Las Vegas with Bening and West Coast mafia syndicate Harvey Keitel (Oscar-nominated) to check on a nickel-and-dime casino and something happens. Beatty gets a vision of something, something extraordinary. This is the beginning of an idea to build the kind of gambling facility we think about today. Beatty's dedication and want leads to the creation of The Flamingo, but it comes at an astronomically high personal, economic and spiritual cost. Beatty may lose it all, but then again he may do something truly unforgettable. "Bugsy" is one of those productions that dominates due to its unforgettable elements. This is an amazing love story that is heart-warming, heart-breaking and heart-wrenching all at the same time. Based on actual events, the film-makers took a few liberties in the production but the majority of the running time is pretty accurate as to what actually took place in real life. Supporting actors Ben Kingsley (Oscar-nominated), Joe Mantegna and Elliott Gould all do good work in small, well-calculated roles. "Bugsy" is one of the best films of the 1990s. It stood tall in 1991 as it had more Oscar nominations than any other movie that year. Beatty and Bening's chemistry is exceptional and their love for each other in real life just seems to glisten brightly on the silver screen. An excellent production that should be discussed and praised much more than it is. 5 stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I enjoyed watching this movie. Of course, I like all the actors - not
the least of which are Beatty and Benning.
Possible Spoilers: I have a few criticisms. 1) It was too long. It could definitely have been shorter and better. 2) I couldn't identify with why Benning's character went ballistic as often as she did. There was so little provocation when she did and yet, other times, there was so much more reason she should have, but she didn't. That was a glaring inconsistency. 3) I thought the lack of better "hands on" oversight by the mob was not believable. There is simply no way on earth a $1M investment would have ended up costing $6M without every penny being justified. The fact that she made off with $2M is beyond belief. Also, why on earth would they have let her live (if not before), then AFTER they took care of Beatty's character. They would have tortured her to get the money back. 4) How did Beatty get out of the murder wrap?? As I recall, one minute he is in jail with no bail and the next minute he is out prancing around. I may have missed something, but if I did it is the movie's fault because it was too nebulous.
Despite those objections, I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I think the main positive of the movie was that this was a true story about a flamboyant, charismatic, dreamer. And, not just any dreamer, but the person whose SINGLE, unilateral, dream eventually became one of the greatest American success stories of all time. He paid the ultimate price for his dream, but his dream ultimately came true - in fact to a much greater degree than he even imagined.
Typical gangster movie in some ways - not up to the level of the Godfather or Goodfellas or others, but stylish and enjoyable to watch.
After staying at the Las Vegas Flamingo, and spending a substantial
amount of time browsing through the artifacts of old Vegas at the Las
Vegas History Museum at the Tropicana Hotel, this is one movie I wanted
to watch when I got back. Not that I'm a fan of Warren Beatty (I only
watched his Dick Tracy movie), but I'm interested in the Hollywood
retelling of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's story.
For the uninitiated, Siegel was a gangster, who loves his family, but is as horny as he can get. He falls in love with the Hollywood glamour and life, and comes to know his new mistress, a starlet called Virginia Hill (Annette Bening), who's known in some circles as the village bicycle - everyone's had a ride.
Seigel shares a love-hate relationship with Hill, and it is always bumpy. And little does he know that this love will ultimately cause his downfall and demise. Love aside, there's also plenty of scenes that shows Siegel's violent nature (hey, he's a gangster), and scenes too that highlights his disregard for money - he spends lavishly. There's a subplot about Mussolini too, which highlights Seigel's eccentricity.
But he does have a vision, and that was having the foresight of predicting how Las Vegas would become as important as can be, with the erection of the Hoover Dam to provide it with electricity. He's the one with the vision of creating something in the middle of the desert, which we know today as the Strip, with casinos, hotels, and entertainment from class acts. His vision started off as The Flamingo hotel, which over blew its budget by almost 5 million dollars (at that time). Of course, when you're dealing with mob money, you'd better be careful, as they become impatient with his grander vision of controlling a casino, city, state, and ultimately having the power to influence presidential elections.
Directed by Barry Levinson, Bugsy is the tale of that one man's vision. It's well acted, with a superb supporting cast. Keeping true to the finale, watch out for that flying eye too. And yes, Beatty and Bening met on set, and married thereafter.
Sadly, this Code 1 DVD contains no special extras.
Winner of two Oscars (and nominated for many more), Bugsy is a tour DE force in the area of biography on film. It is the definitive film of it's genre for the 1990s and on.I love the biographical film genre for many reasons. First of all, they offer a glimpse of what life was for people we all know, and in many cases wish we could be. Secondly, most of the time you know the outcome of the story. The main character dies, makes millions, goes to jail etc. With out the pressure of guessing the ending, the viewer is free to concentrate on the film as a whole, and thus, enjoy it totally. Bugsy Seigel's world holds film appeal for two reasons. First, and most obvious, is that he was a gangster. Gangster movies have held the attention of the movie going public since the 1920s. Secondly,he was in Hollywood in the 1940's, possibly the most glamorous decade Tinseltown ever saw.Director Barry Levinson managed to take these two very different, yet very intoxicating styles and stories to create a heady blend that produced what may be the best biopic made. Levinson's and writer James Toback's genius was in the decision to forgo the usual hodgepodge of life events, in favor of making what is essentially a love story.The focus of the film is essentially the tempestuous love affair between Siegel and Virginia Hill, with the secondary plot being the creation of Vegas as we know it today from Benny's vision of the Flamingo.The best acting by far was by Benning. She was so into her character that if I had not known before hand who she was, I would never had known. Her sassy,passionate and jealous personality creates fireworks on the screen. It is easy to see that this is where Benning and Beatty met and fell in love. They have a chemistry that I have not seen equaled since Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were still making movies. Beatty's performance is stellar as well,he seems at ease in the personification of the first celebrity gangster, and is completely believable in his desperation near the end. All the supporting players, Keitel, Kingsley and Gould especially were amazing as the famous crime figures they portrayed. My one complaint on the casting side is Joe Montagna's George Raft. Why he is continually allowed to appear as and thus insult the memory of famous screen personalities is beyond me. (All though he is not nearly as horrible here as he was as Dean Martin in "The Rat Pack"). To compliment the intense fireworks both romantic and violent, a bright visual style is incorporated. The sleek look is total 1940's, and the cinematography is genius (notably the shot with Benny and Virginia's first kiss.) Everything meshes together beautifully to create a gem among films. This is a film about a man of extreme vision and passion, and it is a must to see if only to appreciate the beauty of a job well done.
Can anything new be added to the seemingly endless cycle of big screen gangster movies? Maybe not, judging by this lavish, overlong tribute to mobster Ben 'Bugsy' Siegal. In a role perhaps written with Warren Beatty in mind, the title character is presented as a charming, vain, lecherous wannabe actor with a weakness for Hollywood glamour, which if true would make this film his dream come true. Typical for director Barry Levinson it's a big, glossy production, well cast with reliable talent and tailor made for Oscar consideration, with plenty of domestic melodrama and backstage romance, plus a memorable, histrionic death scene for its star. The script by James Toback opens strong, but fatally softens Siegal's lethal character (after only one frightening temper tantrum) by concentrating more on the underworld myth of the man who 'discovered' Las Vegas. Even more damaging is the heavy-handed comedy, which drags the film away from its subject into something uncomfortably close to parody.
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