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"Twenty dwarfs took turns doing handstands on the carpet. " - Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel
MichaelMargetis4 October 2005
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+
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Beauty with a Capital B
waldorfsalad9 June 2000
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.
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Interesting and violent story about rise and fall of the famous gangster in Las Vegas
ma-cortes27 February 2013
This is an exciting tale of how Bugsy Siegel started Las Vegas . As New York gangster Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel takes a brief business trip to Los Angeles. A violent and tough Siegel (Warren Beatty) doesn't hesitate to kill or maim anyone crossing him . Bugsy meets George Raft (Joe Mantegna) while is making a film (it is ¨Manpower¨ which co-starred Edward G. Robinson) and the scene being shot where George gets into a bar fight and hands a broken chair to an actress really does appear in the actual movie . In L.A. the life , the motion pictures , and most of all a second-range actress named Virginia Hill (Annette Bening) detain him while his wife (Wendy Phillips) wait back home . Then a journey to a run-down gambling joint at a spot in the desert gives him his big idea , the Hotel Flamingo construction .

Enjoyable film based on the famous mobster that contains drama , real events , thrills and lots of violence . The picture relies heavily on the relationship between Bugsy and his lover Virginia Hill , and about the luxurious Hotel Flamingo building in Las Vegas . Nice acting from protagonist duo as Warren Beatty playing the sharp-dressing womaniser with a foul temper and Annete Bening as the strong-willed actress . After working on this film, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening were married . They'd met several years before when she auditioned for another Beatty production ; they met again when she was seriously considered for the role of Tess Trueheart in Dick Tracy . This is one of three movies released in 1991 that featured Bugsy Siegel as a character , the other two were ¨The Marrying Man¨ and ¨Mobsters¨ . Good production design by Dennis Gassner , most of the Las Vegas scenes of the Flamingo construction were filmed near Palm Desert and La Quinta, California, where a full-sized replica of the Flamingo was built . Emotive and sensitive musical score by the great Ennio Morricone . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Allen Daviau . The picture was professionally directed by Barry Levinson .

The flick was well based on real deeds , these are the followings : During adolescence, Siegel befriended Meyer Lansky (Ben Kingsley) , who was forming a small crew whose criminal activities expanded to include gambling and car theft . In 1930, Lansky and Siegel built close ties to Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Frank Costello (Caridi), both future bosses of the Genovese (Carrara) crime family. Bootlegger Siegel was also associated with Albert "Mad Hatter" Anastasia. Siegel was also heavily involved in bootlegging operations in various cities . During the so-called Castellammarese War in 1930-1931, they fought the gang of Sal Maranzano ; Siegel reputedly had a hand in Maranzano's murder and later in the formation of Murder , Inc . Lansky and Siegel assisted with Luciano's (Bill Graham) brief alliance with Dutch Schultz and killed rival loan sharks Amberg . In 1937, the East Coast mob sent Siegel to California to develop syndicate gambling rackets with Los Angeles mobster Jack Dragna (Richard C Sarafian) . Once in L.A. , Siegel recruited gang boss Mickey Cohen (Harvey Keitel) as his lieutenant. Siegel used syndicate money to set up a national wire service to help the East Coast mob quicken their returns . With the aid of actor friend George Raft (Joe Mantegna) , Siegel gained entry into Hollywood's inner circle . Siegel soon started an affair with Virginia Hill . The Alabama-born Hill lived in a mansion in Beverly Hills that she rented from Metropolitan Opera baritone Lawrence Tibbett . Siegel, Whitey Krakow, and two other gang members killed Harry "Big Greenie" Greenberg (Elliot Gould) . Greenberg had become a police informant, and Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, boss of Murder, Inc., ordered his killing. Siegel was arrested and tried for the Greenberg murder. Whitey Krakower was killed before he could face trial. Siegel was acquitted on the Greenberg murder, but his reputation was in ruins.
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'Bugsy': Destined to be a gangster classic.
mkrusc13 January 2001
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.
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This Could Be the Start of Something Big.
tfrizzell11 January 2003
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.
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A Nutshell Review: Bugsy (DVD, 1991)
DICK STEEL19 December 2005
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.
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An insult to everyone even remotely interested in the truth
DonDiego19732 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It goes without saying that a modicum of allowances has to be made when a true story is being adapted for the big screen. But if you shoot a fairy tale that has next to nothing to do with what actually happened - why call it Bugsy and make the audience believe this was a halfway true story? The Godfather trilogy processes many real characters and events, Once Upon A Time In America does it, too, but they don't claim to be telling true stories.


In the movie, Benny has this grand vision of a gambler's Eldorado; in real life Lansky had to argue him into going to Nevada. Benny deemed the notion of a counterpart to Monte Carlo idiotic, and he'd have preferred to continue his life as a playboy in L.A. Not until much later Benny warmed to the idea. But of course he's the hero of the movie, so naturally the idea had to be his.

In the movie, Benny wants to use Count diFrasso to get close to Mussolini in order to assassinate him because he was Hitler's partner, and Hitler killed jews in gas chambers, after all. Obviously we're supposed to like Benny, so the screenwriters invented this nonsense. In real life, at that time nobody knew about the gas chambers, least of all Benny who was completely uninterested in politics. In fact he did use the countess' connection and he did visit Mussolini, but not to kill him, but to sell explosives to him. He even met Goebbels and Goering during his sojourn in Italy.

The whole Greenberg subplot was nonsense. Greenberg didn't turn stool pigeon, he didn't seek refuge with Benny, Benny didn't kill him (that was up to Albert Tannenbaum)... at least they got the name right.

I guess it was supposed to be very romantic to have Virginia return to Benny, offering him the money she had stolen. The movie even goes so far to tell us via text panels that she ruefully returned the money to Lansky after Benny's assassination. Let me just say, revisionism just doesn't get more impudent than this.

This list is by no means exhaustive - there's the issue with Benny's family not living in L.A, the way Benny deals with Dragna and Adonis, the portrayal of Costello (a disagreeable corporate type), Lansky (a lovable teddy bear), Benny himself (an aging windbag who wouldn't have reached age 12 if he had regularly gone "bugsy" in situations like those in the movie, and what's more, who neither has the good looks nor the charisma of Benny Siegel) and many others. Apart from a few hard facts nothing's right in this flick.


All in all, this is the one mafia movie that manages to be even more ridiculously bad than Harlem, NY. But honor where honor is due: This is a feat in itself.
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A very atypical gangster film.
jgtoms7 September 2000
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".
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The Definitive Biopic
jane_e125 April 2006
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.
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8 on a scale of 10
len-2110 April 2005
Warning: 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.
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Underrated, yes; epic, not quite.
bmcd1020 December 2011
Bugsy is a typical gangster/mob movie; it has got the wise guys, the families, the family problems, and a tragic flaw in the protagonist. It is also 2 1/2 hours long, which you should expect with any biopic anyway, but I think it can get a little tedious in some areas. First off, Warren Beatty is brilliant, and there is no question in my mind that it was anything less than perfection. His supporting cast's performances were excellent as well including those of Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley, and Annette Bening. The film probably deserved all the Oscar nominations it received, but, with the exceptions of Beatty's performance and a couple technical awards, nothing deserved the Oscar. However, I do not want to give a bad impression of this film because it does deserve some approbation.

The story of Bugsy Siegel is indeed a true story. Siegel was a New York Jewish gangster, who moved out to L.A., and one thing led to another and resulted in Bugsy building the Flamingo hotel and casino in the middle of the desert. This is the man who put Las Vegas on the map. Bugsy (by the way, don't call him Bugsy to face) is very insane. Also, Kingsley's character gets to introduce Bugsy's tragic flaw: he doesn't "respect" money. This combination makes one very unique mobster that I can not compare to any other. Just wait for the scene relating to dogs and pigs; I don't want to reveal anymore because this is where Beatty shines.

Virginia Hill (Bening) is a cookie cutter actress going steady with one of Siegel's or somebody else's soldiers. Bugsy starts to look fondly on her, and thus starts the romance. There should be no surprise whatsoever since they're married in real life, but Beatty and Bening do have great chemistry on screen. Their relationship brings out a lot of fun in the film.

Again, Bugsy is a tragedy. I don't think that's spoiling it since you can learn that somewhere on the Internet, but I do want to let you know what you're getting into. It is a very interesting story with a few laughs and some irony here and there. Barry Levinson made a well-constructed film that flows very nicely and only lacks where I assume the screenplay does. I would not say it is at the caliber of Goodfellas or The Godfather Trilogy, but, all in all, it is a pretty decent movie.

I highly recommend that you definitely see it.
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too bad Martin Scorsese didn't make it
mjneu599 November 2010
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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Bugsy Siegel is dead. The Flamingo belongs to us
tieman6415 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"The classy gangster is a Hollywood invention." - Orson Welles

The 1990s saw the resurgence of the gangster genre ("King of New York", "Bugsy", "Godfather 3", "Miller's Crossing", "Billy Bathgate", "Goodfellas", "Casino", "Dick Tracy", "Heat", "Donnie Brasco", "A Bronx Tale", "State of Grace", "Kansas City" etc). Most of these told fairly familiar tales, with the exception, arguably, of the down-beat "Donnie Brasco" and the off-beat "Kansas City". The 1990s also saw a number of gangster films centering on African-American crime lords ("New Jack City", "Menace to Society", "Dead Presidents" etc), the best of these being "Clockers" and "Boyz n the Hood".

Released at the forefront of this cycle was Barry Levinson's "Bugsy". Based on a screenplay by James Toback, the film tells the story of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel (Warren Beatty), the infamous American gangster.

The plot? It is 1941, and Bugsy has left Brooklyn for Southern California. Assisted by childhood pal George Raft (Joe Mantegna) and local mobster Mickey Cohen (Harvey Keitel), Bugsy sets about expanding his criminal empire. Along the way he meets Virginia Hill (Annette Bening), a Hollywood extra. She's proud, feisty, different, a cocktail which sets Bugsy's heart alight. They fall in love.

Warren Beatty specialised in playing doomed romantics ("Splendour in the Grass", "Bonnie and Clyde", "Shampoo", "Reds", "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" etc). In "Bugsy" he plays a guy caught between the barbarism of the gangster, and his own private idealisations. Bugsy dreams of a happy family, of an acting career, of Hollywood stardom, of legitimate business credentials, of assassinating Mussolini, of a life with Virginia, of being a "hero", all fanciful desires which are thwarted by the realities of being a crime lord. This tug-of-war plays out on the local newspapers, in which journalists refer to Siegel - much to his chagrin - by his gangland nickname "Bugsy" rather than "Benjamin", his proper name.

The world necessitates Bugsy be a monster, not a dreamer, but these are monstrous necessities which Bugsy quickly loses interest in. "Bugsy doesn't care about money," a fellow crime boss ( Ben Kingsley) says, as Bugsy embarks upon his dream to build a grand hotel in the empty deserts of Las Vegas. Siegel's Flamingo Hotel is originally budgeted at a million dollars, but because of his fanaticism it winds up costing investors six times as much. Unsurprisingly, Bugsy's shot and killed by his business partners. Years later his hotel not only blossoms into a multi-billion dollar industry, but becomes the seed from which the entire gambling city of Las Vegas springs. What other obscenities, the film asks, do neon lights mask?

Like most gangster films, "Bugsy" simultaneously romanticises and condemns its central character. Bugsy's nasty, unpleasant, but also likable, doomed, caught in a tragedy from which there is no escape. The film's tone itself veers wildly from farcical comedy to the macabre.

How to balance a "normal family life" with "the life of a criminal" is a trite theme common in gangster films ("Godfather", "Goodfellas", "Scarface", "Heat", "Public Enemies" etc). Your typical gangster just can't stop killing cops and bad guys long enough to settle down and please his woman. This is the double helix of the genre: the gangster's obsessed with cash, but never has time for enjoyment. It's a stance mocked in Robert Altman's subversive "Thieves Like Us". For Altman, there's little meaningful distinction between the desires of the criminal and the civilian, and even less distinction between crime, politics and "legal" business.

But Barry Levinson is no iconoclast. His Bugsy is yet another gangster constantly hounded by unhappy women, all of whom want his time. What's new in "Bugsy" is that EVERYONE wants a piece of Bugsy. Everyone wants Bugsy to operate on their terms. But Bugsy, a dreamer who refuses to abide, remains steadfast in his convictions. In a moment of Herzogian madness ("I will get that boat over that mountain!"), Bugsy insists that he will build that damn hotel. Nothing will stop him!

Unlike most gangster films of the 1990s, "Bugsy" eschews postmodern tricks for an austere, classical style reminiscent of Coppola's "prestigeous" gangster pictures. Though the film indulges in many genre clichés, it handles each in a slightly fresh manner. The film benefits from several fine bit parts (Keitel and Elliot Gould in particular), but mostly it's Warren Beatty who holds things together. Beatty plays Bugsy as a big child, and because he's a bit of a wide-eyed loser (shades of Al Pacino's in "Donnie Brasco"), his Bugsy's all the more endearing. Like most Hollywood "biographies", the film has very little to do with the "real" Benjamin Siegel. It was scored by Ennio Morricone, whose voluptuous soundtrack doesn't quite suit either Levinson's aesthetic or Toback's prose.

7.9/10 – See "Mccabe and Mrs Miller".
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B for Bugsy, B for Beatty, B for Bad
susansweb15 August 2001
Not as bad as "Billy Bathgate" but close. Try as he might, Warren Beatty just could not be believed as Bugsy. Whenever he flipped out, instead of being shocked by the violence, I found it pretty embarrassing because it was so phony. The other actors don't fare as well either. Annette Bening just doesn't have what it takes to play seductive women, she is better off with safe characters. As many have noted, Joe Mantegna would have fared better if the script had him as a more believable George Raft. Only Harvey Keitel emerged unscathed, but then again this guy can do these movies in his sleep. And Robert Beltran, with just one line, steals one of the big Beatty, Bening scenes. With these films, I'm never sure if the director is intent on making the mobsters seem like normal businessmen or if it just comes out that way. Either way, I don't like it. These guys were killers and no matter how much Las Vegas is indebted to Bugsy Siegel, I don't think that a movie should be made glorifying the guy, especially one with a big studio backing.
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Interesting Portrait But Too Profane
ccthemovieman-120 April 2006
Tis is the story of famous gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and beginnings of Las Vegas, Nevada. That part begins about halfway through the 135-minute film when Siegel (Warren Beatty) gets his "vision" about Las Vegas.

Too much of this movie is just profane arguing between the nasty "Virginia Hill" (Annette Bening) and Siegel. If this was accurate, why he put up with that woman's constant berating is mind-boggling.

I liked the rest of the cast except for Joe Mantegna, who made a very poor George Raft. Harvey Keitel as L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen is good as is Ben Kingsley, as Meyer Lansky, head of the East Coast mob.

There are tons of f-words in here, which I question. I doubt if that word was used that frequently back in those days. Usually I don't care but it's way overdone here.

It's a nice-looking film but unfortunately the DVD transfer is weak. The colors in here are great and certainly deserve to look better on disc. Another major flaw is they make the two lead characters look like sympathetic figures in the end, which is just plain wrong. The only thing Siegel had going for him was foresight concerning Las Vegas.

In the end, he and Hill reaped what they sowed anyway, if the story is true. Despite the objections I have with it, it's still an interesting biography, I'll say that. I never got bored with this movie.
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A Vanity Project For Beatty
louis-king10 August 2006
Bugsy Siegel was 31 when he went out to the West Coast. In addition to his dreams about Las Vegas, he toyed with the idea of acting. He was a good looking guy and about 7 years younger than his pal George Raft, so it wasn't such a crazy idea.

Warren Beatty was 54 when he made this movie and despite the hair dye, he's too old for this part. Beatty was miscast; Bugsy should have been played by someone like Alec Baldwin. Bugsy was a tough guy feared by his contemporaries; Beatty just doesn't radiate menace.

This was a vanity project for Beatty, who hasn't come to terms with the fact that he's no longer a leading man.

The other big annoying miscast is Mantegna as George Raft. Raft had a distinctive voice and mannerisms, none of which Mantegna even attempts to match. You never once believe that Mantegna came from the streets.

Warren Beatty and Robert Redford have both been pretending to be younger for years by massive use of hair dye, and now it;ll be a shock to suddenly go gray and play character parts.
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Tedious and infuriating
goconnell23 January 2003
A tedious gangster film that leaves you wishing someone had edited it farce more ruthlessly. I would have thought that the story of the creation of Las Vegas would prove interesting but it fails at almost every turn. Warren Beatty's performance as the stupid and unlikeable Bugsy Seigel leaves you wishing you were watching someone else. Once or twice he flashes through the fog of his performance to deliver an interesting scene but most of the time you just can't care about him. Annette Benning gives a skilled turn as his untrustworthy lover but even she's only faintly more savoury than he is.

I really wouldn't bother with this turgid drama unless you're a Benning devotee.
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bix1716 January 2014
A bid for "Godfather"-like immortality, "Bugsy" is an overly melodramatic mess that lurches from episode to episode featuring uncharacteristic overacting from both Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. One would hope a sensitive director would highlight the emotional hot spots from hopeless romantic James Toback's screenplay but Barry Levinson approaches this project with a dismaying literalness that makes certain sections utterly embarrassing (particularly the scenes focusing on Elliott Gould's half-wit, which seem directly lifted from Steinbeck). Without a sense of irony (something "The Godfather" had in spades), even the sets seem little more than phony representations of a bygone era.
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Gangster, Murderer, Lover, Dreamer...and quite a colorful fellow!
moonspinner5518 July 2010
Warren Beatty is impeccable as 1940s New York-based gangster Ben Siegel (don't call him Bugsy!) who infiltrated Hollywood in its golden era, making friends with celebrities, entering into an alliance with adversary Mickey Cohen, dreaming up a glamorous, heroic life for himself while falling madly in love with volatile starlet Virginia Hill. A car-trip to Nevada to check out a mobster-run casino gave Siegel his biggest epiphany: a gambling palace in the desert called the Flamingo, which he believed would become a vacation hot-spot for the high-rollers of the world. This may be director Barry Levinson's most accomplished picture yet; it does feel semi-soft and overly glossy in the beginning but, with many thanks to James Toback's unflinching and hard-boiled screenplay, the movie flows effortlessly along, introducing (and sometimes dispatching with) various colorful figures from gangland history with aplomb. Annette Bening is a bit uneven as Hill (particularly in a later prison sequence), but Harvey Keitel is an amazingly gentleman-like Cohen, Ben Kingsley a marvelously low-keyed Meyer Lansky, and Elliott Gould sympathetic as stoolie Harry Greenberg. What initially looks like a romanticized portrait actually bristles with anger and bloodletting, yet Siegel (as played by Beatty) remains an affable guy. He's vain, he's jealous, he's hot-tempered, he's unforgiving--and yet he's a pushover for loyal friends, a softy for his estranged family in Scarsdale, a lover of big, impossible dreams. Levinson sweeps the audience up in this glittering tale, which is a lot more than just nostalgia and dazzle. It's the story of a man whose dreams were too big for his own era. *** from ****
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Impressive Fiilm, Yet Not Without Some Flaws
jcanettis3 August 2005
Having won 2 Oscars and 7 nominations, it is clear that "Bugsy" is no ordinary film. And yet, although it can be safely categorized as an impressive piece of work, it still has some distinct flaws which keep it back from getting into the "masterpiece" class.

First of all, one of the indisputable merits of the film is Barry Levinson's direction. Every scene is meticulously prepared, with no detail being ignored; one example of his fine work is the scene where Bugsy and Virginia make love for their first time, and we watch their shades behind the projector's curtain. Barry Levinson has come up with several other great directions throughout his career ("Rain Man" is a good example), but in "Bugsy" he definitely deserved the golden statute for his excellent work.

The performances are also generally good, although here my first objections start to appear: I completely agreed with the idea of casting Keitel as Bugsy's accomplice, and Kingsley as mafia boss; they both fit perfectly in their roles, and their performances were worthy of their respective legends. However, I cannot say the same about the idea of casting Beatty as the paranoid and erratic Bugsy, or Benning as his girlfriend Virginia; although they both tried hard, for some reason their performances didn't quite work out as they should. It seems as if they were the wrong people in the wrong roles. I do not say that Beatty and Benning acted terribly. I simply suggest that their roles should perhaps be awarded to two other actors that would fit more easily in them.

And finally let us come to the plot issue, which is where the most flaws of "Bugsy" appear. The story is basically quite interesting: This is the tale of Ben "Bugsy" Siegel, a strange and erratic mobster, who likes to cheat his committed wife at the first opportunity. His life changes completely when he is sent to L.A. for a job, as he becomes immediately attracted to the city's life, surroundings, and a woman, Virginia, to whom he becomes fixed. While being there, he envisions a great plan, to build a site to what will one day will become Las Vegas. Unfortunately, his vain and grandiose ways, his paranoia, and his erratic style, make things very difficult for himself and for the people around him.

Interesting the plot may be, but it suffers from major gaps; moreover, considering that the plot is based on a true story, the existence of implausibilities becomes more annoying. Even if one argues that they serve an artistic purpose, I would still like the film to be more rational and realistic.

Worse, the story sometimes gets into some great lengths, becoming somewhat tiring. Of course, one could argue that there are gangster movies such as "Once Upon A Time In America", that also get into great length, and still manage to remain masterpieces. Unfortunately, "Bugsy" fails to accomplish this.

And yet, despite its flaws, "Bugsy" is still a good 7/10, film. Pity it didn't manage to get an even higher grade, though...
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Perfect movie for Grandma
cheekyfilm29 December 2016
I happened across this movie somehow and wondered why I had never heard of it. After watching I understand more than I want to.

In the age of Martin Scorsese you have Warren Beatty hamming it up like it's still the 1930s and subject matter about as gritty as baby powder. They changed Bugsy from a monster (real life) to a weirdo with a temper (hollywood). It lacks most things you'd associate with a gangster film and instead focuses on Siegel's romantic life and his dreams of building a gangster's paradise in the Nevada desert. Ben Kingsley gives what has to be the worst performance in his career as Meyer Lansky. Most of the actors here seem puzzled about their character's motivations, so their performances come off as one-note (Annette Benning either being annoyed, happy or screaming in every scene) but Kingsley just puts on a goofy accent and phones it in.

Overall it's very boring. By the end I was cheering when Bugsy was killed, not because he was a bad guy, but because something was finally happening on screen
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Did not like....
lotus_chief8 August 2003
My girlfriend wanted to see this (lol this is the case a lot)...so I rented it. Then I saw how acclaimed this was nominated for 10 Oscars. GREAT! this should be good ol' drama. This movie had a lot of potential...the direction and the way everything was paced was very well. But once the movie ended, I couldn't help but ask myself if this story was really worth making a film for. Virginia Hill (Annette Bening) was EXTREMELY annoying, I just couldn't tolerate her character at all. Warren Beatty was excellent in the film acting-wise, but again I just found it hard to have sympathy for his character....he just came off essentially as a idiotic, hotheaded loser of a gangster..who had no place in 'the life' in the first place. How'd he get in with the likes of Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano anyway??? This film just left me with a bland but uneasy feeling...what was the big deal with this movie? I just didn't feel a completeness with Bugsy. Beatty's antics, although acted quite well, just seemed too random and illogical. I'm guessing that's how Siegel really was....but it was just too much of that. There just didn't seem to be much of a real story here. My basic assessment of it would be

"a hot-headed, playboy, underachieving gangster falls in love with a loser of a woman, comes up with the idea of 'Las Vegas'....but his failed attempt at the casino he builds, along with having no regard for his mob bosses' money gets him killed."

What else is there besides that? I just didn't see the big deal with this, and it was a big disappointment. There must've not been many movies to come out in 1991, how this was nominated for 10 Oscars is beyond me (although the two it won is justifiable). 1.5/4 stars.
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"He Has No Respect For Money"
bkoganbing21 July 2007
Though Bugsy is hardly the real story of Benjamin Siegal, the criminal mastermind who turned Las Vegas into a desert pleasure town, Warren Beatty has captured the essence of the man. Bugsy got several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Beatty. Unfortunately it came out during the year of Silence of the Lambs which was the Best Picture in 1991 and Anthony Hopkins beat Beatty for Best Actor.

Certainly Ben Siegal was at the top of the racketeering profession, he was shrewd, he was connected to the rightest people there were in that world, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, he had it all. He was also a compulsive womanizer and had as Ben Kingsley who played Meyer Lansky put it, no respect for money. When he met Virginia Hill those two elements of his character destroyed him.

Annette Bening is Virginia Hill and I'm wondering why Beatty and director Barry Levinson didn't give her a trace of southern accent since the real Virginia Hill was born in Alabama. Of course after the film, Bening became Mrs. Wareen Beatty and the off screen romance certainly added to the portrait of the totally obsessed Siegal with Hill.

Harvey Keitel plays Mickey Cohen who was Siegal's number one lieutenant and took over eventually the west coast territory for the syndicate and does a good job as the tough as nails street kid who Siegal allies himself with in a gangland power play. Keitel and Kingsley both were nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Jack Palance in City Slickers.

One character who isn't mentioned much in talking about this film is George Raft as played by Joe Mantegna. Raft who was born and grew up in Hell's Kitchen got his start in mob owned speakeasies during Prohibition and knew every one there was of importance in the underworld. It's probably the reason that the story of Ben Siegal was not brought to the screen until eleven years after Raft died.

Bugsy only took home one Oscar, for Costume Design and the players sure do have a Forties look about them. Bugsy is one of Warren Beatty's best films and should not be missed.
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The heyday of mafioso
p-stepien22 December 2012
An autobiographical feature focused on the LA period of life of notorious gangster Ben "Bugsy" Siegel (Warren Beatty), together with his ill-fated investment into the creation of what would become the Las Vegas gambling empire. Closely following this period of his life creates a screen version of the Ben Siegel character, which now probably dominates general perception. Warren Beatty gives Bugsy a measurable charm and a degree of intellectual flair, which may not necessarily comply with the portrayal of his person of the times.

Known as being well acquainted with Hollywood circles, he was also described as being ruthless and apt for aggressive compulsive behaviours. Certain such aspects do feature in the opening sequences, but increasingly into the picture Bugsy is shown as calm, collected and focused on his public image. Fatefully he is also drawn as a sort of mafia dreamer, whose vision far exceeded that of other mafioso of the time, thus being key behind the over-budgeted exuberance of building "The Flamingo", thus becoming the basis for creating the economic power that is Las Vegas. At the time however his input was ridiculed, ultimately leading to his death due to overspending of mafia money (albeit truth be told the role of William Wilkerson is absolutely ignored giving Bugsy the sole credit for building Las Vegas).

Warren Beatty also offers his strong presence to further romanticise Bugsy Siegel, mostly through to his dedicated love affair with minor actress Virginia Hill (Annette Bening). With some historic liberties in place Bugsy is shown as a somewhat obsessed and head-over-heels blind lover, who falls over for the wrong girl, thus bringing about his downfall. This almost idyllic portrayal of one of America's most ruthless criminals would have to be its biggest flaw, thus creating a image well in tune with the American dream, but much detached from the bloody and dirty details behind mafia. Overall a pretty darn good film, but somewhat discredited by overly idolising and overstating Ben Siegel as a hopeless dreamer and sole mastermind behind Las Vegas.
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It's a good movie but a bit too clean and friendly as well.
Boba_Fett113827 May 2008
Well this movie just ain't no "Goodfellas", even though it was definitely inspired by it. It's a pretty good movie on its own right but it just remains a bit too much on the safe and clean side to really regard this as a true great and effective gangster-movie.

For a gangster movie it's just a too friendly one. This is like the light version of "Goodfellas". Supposedly Bugsy Siegel was a big gangster boss with connections but when watching this movie it makes you wonder why and how all. Guess they were just too afraid we would begin to dislike the character once we saw him do a lot of brutal things and killing- and giving orders to kill lots of people, even though this all of course was more closer to the truth as the character that is being portrayed in this movie. This not just goes for the main character but also does around him. It especially also goes for Virginia Hill. Guess director Barry Levinson just wasn't the right guy for a movie such as this. So as a biopic of the real life gangster Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel this just isn't a really good or insightful movie.

The movie still became an acclaimed success though, mainly because gangster movies were popular at that time, which also explains why the movie received no less than 10 Oscar nominations and taking home 2 of them. It was made at the same time as movies such as "The Godfather: Part III" and "Goodfellas" got released.

As a movie itself there isn't really much wrong with it. It's a good movie that follows a person that is following his dreams. Bugsy definitely seemed like a complicated and unpredictable character. He had some strange big ideas and really didn't knew how to handle money. It's a good movie and story on its own but as I said before, as a biopic or gangster movie it can't be really seen as a great one. The movie basically suffers from the same problems as "The Aviator"; it's too much in love with its main character and forgets to show the ugly but realistic things about his life.

Also seemed to me that Warren Beatty also didn't really knew how to handle the character. At times he's portraying him as a tough gangster, while at other moments it picks an even sort of like comical approach. Otherwise he plays well in the movie, just because he's such a darn fine actor, who has always starred in far to few pictures. His last movie already dates back again to 2001.

This is also known as the movie in which Warren Beatty and Annette Bening met and they got married 1 year later.

Besides Bening and Beatty the movie also stars acclaimed stars such as Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley and Elliott Gould, in variating sizes of roles. It's of course never a punishment to watch any of these actors in any movies.

It's a good movie, as long as you're not expecting a "Goodfellas" type of gangster-flick, even though it features basically the same style and narrative way of storytelling.


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