Bullets Over Broadway (1994) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
89 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Mobsters and thespians
jotix10025 April 2005
Woody Allen had the inspired idea to let another actor played what would have been a tailor-made he wrote for himself. As a director, Mr. Allen has always done well. Of course, there are exceptions, but in "Bullets over Broadway" show an inspired Mr. Allen doing what he does best. This comedy, written in collaboration with Douglas McGrath, is a happy take on a situation that only this director would have been able to create.

We are shown two different worlds. In one, the roaring twenties gangsters have the control of all illegal activities in Manhattan. On the other, we meet an idealistic writer, David Shayne, who wants to have his play produced. Enter the capo Nick Valenti. This man has enough money to buy his current paramour, the dizzy Olive Neal, whatever her little heart desires. Thus, the vehicle chosen is the drama David has written.

Thus begins a frantic comedy of errors where the theater and the mob intermingle with funny results. We watch as the play gets produced on Broadway how the different factions come together, each one with a different idea as to what to do with the play.

The cast is first rate. John Cusack, as the ambitious playwright, does some of his best work in showing what this man is going through. Dianne Wiest, one of the most accomplished actresses around, makes a splash with her take on Helen Sinclair, the first lady of the American theatah! Jennifer Tully is excellent as Olive Neal, the girl from the provinces with high aspirations, but no talent.

Chaz Palmintieri, as Cheech, the mobster that understands what's wrong with the play is hilarious. The late Joe Venturelli was born to play his mobster Nick Valente. Jack Warden is perfect as the producer. Tracey Ullman and Jim Broadbent are simply marvelous as the cast members of the play in production. Mary Louise Parker and Harvey Fierstein, Rob Reiner are also seen in smaller roles.

"Bullets over Broadway", as most of Mr. Allen's films has a great musical score of the jazz songs of the era. Mr. Allen, in taking a seat behind the camera, delivers one of his best and funniest films to date.
26 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Witty and sparkly
bob the moo2 August 2002
In 1920's New York a young author, David, manages to get his play off the ground with funding from mobster Valenti. The money allows David to get actors of the caliber of Helen Sinclair and Warner Purcell, however there's a catch. Valenti wants his screechy girl friend Olive to play a key part. This problem is compounded by Olive's minder Cheech who has plenty of constructive criticism on how the play could be better. David tries to balance all these in the name of art.

It's rarely new ground that Woody Allen walks – but how come he manages to make it so damn sparkly and witty? Here he delivers wonderful spoof on theatre people and the assumptions we all make about characters based on what they do or how they talk. The writing is spot on, Allen delivers tonnes of great lines but also creates characters that he expands over the film. It is very watchable and it rarely suffers from the fate on some of Allen's recent comedies – feeling too light or whimsical for it's own good. Instead it is funny but has some points to make.

Of course it always helps if you have a great cast and this does. With people like Warden, Broadbent, Wiest, Tilly, Parker, Fierstein, Reiner, Falco and Palminteri it's hard not to have at least the majority of the cast giving good performances – Wiest, Tilly and Palminteri were my favourites. Cusack was good as the overpowered writer but the one thing I didn't like is the same with many actors who do the traditional Woody role – he gives a slight impression at times rather than cutting out the role as his own.

Overall Woody Allen may not be everyone's cup of tea – but for fans this is him at his whimsical best. Not a classic comedy but a warm Allen film that sparkles in nearly every scene.
35 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
"You better get in the mood, honey, 'cause he's payin' the rent."
Galina20 September 2005
Set in 1920's New York City, "Bullets over Broadway" (1994) tells the story of a young playwright David Shayne who tries to produce his first play. He "stands on the brink of greatness. The world will open to him like an oyster. No... not like an oyster. The world will open to him like a magnificent vagina" but he needs to find money for production first.

The money comes from the gangster Nick Valenti on one condition - Nick's stunningly untalented bimbo girlfriend Olive ("She ruins everything she's in. She ruins things she's not even in") has to play a psychiatrist. Olive is accompanied to each rehearsal by hit-man/bodyguard Cheech who knows how the real people talk and turned to be a greater writer than David. David's leading man, Warner Purcell eats compulsively every time he gets nervous (and there are plenty of reasons for him to get nervous). David's relationship with the girlfriend Ellen suffers when he begins an affair with the talented leading lady Helen Sinclair ("I'm still a star. I never play frumps or virgins.") who is "in the last couple of years... better known as an adulteress and a drunk."

"Bullets over Broadway" is one of my favorite comedies by one of the favorite directors/writers, Woody Allen (I love you Woody, always have, always will - please make your gems, and I will be there to watch them). It has everything I look for in a comedy - brilliance, wit, clever writing, hilarious and sinister twist in the plot, amazing performances, authentic feel of the era and great musical score. "Bullets over Broadway" is pure delight from the beginning to the end. The best I could describe the film - to paraphrase the famous line from John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address: "Ask not what Art can do for you — ask what you can do for Art".

17 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Intelligence and humour
valadas2 October 2004
Woody Allen is a genius indeed. Once more in this movie he presents us with a mixture of intelligence and humour conveyed by his famous witty dialogues where the characters seem to play with serious things but are indeed giving us through humour an image of what people think and feel about life nowadays and about the relationships that spring among them. This story mix up with considerable success two ingredients that "a priori" seem not to combine very well: the world of theatre with the world of mafia and gangsterism in the crazy twenties of last century. All the characters are very typical and greatly performed: the young playwright looking for a place in the sun, the ham actress who overacts a lot even in real life, the mafia boss who imposes his girlfriend on the playwright as an actress, the Greenwich Village intellectuals and so on. In my opinion however the feeblest character is the one of the gangster who becomes also playwright from a certain moment on. Some of his interventions lack authenticity. But this is only a minor flaw in the whole. Like all the other Woody Allen's movies this one seems superficial at first sight but it's well made and deep enough to amuse us and simultaneously make us think and feel life in it.
16 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
takes on the egotistical qualities in artists- and gangsters- in Allen's very funny send-up of Broadway
MisterWhiplash15 March 2007
Now this is something sort of rare, though not really: Woody Allen mixing satire and drama, and the satire actually even more convincing than the drama. The opposite was in a more serious affair, Crimes and Misdemeanors, where art and murder and infidelities all get into one big pot of personality crises. This is the same case with Bullets Over Broadway, though this time Allen's tackling of the ego-maniacal crutches of the Broadway scene- the aging star Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest, one of her very best performances, funniest too), the bumbling boob Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly, appropriately annoying- and then how it sort of infects the outsiders to the major Broadway scene, one the protagonist David Shayne (John Cusack, excellent here), and Olive's bodyguard, Cheech (Chazz Palminteri, a character he could play in his sleep, but played pretty well anyway). Cheech is hanging around during rehearsals of David's first play he's writing and directing, following getting funding (on the condition of Olive as a psychiatrist) from a heavy-duty mobster, and soon he's suggesting ideas, and in the process becomes David's uncredited collaborator. But meanwhile infidelities are abound, with David falling for the wonderfully self-indulgent Helen, and a goofy romance between Olive and the thespian Warner Purcell (Jim Broadbent), leading to a purely ironic climax.

Allen's skills at navigating the neuroses of all the characters is very skilled, and sometimes the one-liners are surprisingly funny, all based on the personalities (Wiesst especially, in a voice that is a little startling at first, gives a classic line about the world 'opening' up, and her running gag with "don't speak"). Even with the more dramatic connections, which doesn't seem to be as much of Allen's concerns since it's pretty one-note with the mob side of things (and, frankly, the fates of Olive and Cheech sort of seem a little too contrived for the sake of the irony par for the course), we do get a very memorable bit to make things worth the while, like David and Cheech's down to earth talk at the bar. But if there's anything else to recommend more strongly it's for the sharpness of the script in the theater scenes, the backstage banter, the hilarious tension stirred up by grudges and ill-timed romances. Plus, there's a bit of an added treat for fans of past Allen films, where he casts Rob Reiner in a role sort of similar to that of Wallace Shawn in Manhattan. Not a masterpiece, but a very enjoyable work that's successful on its dark-light terms.
11 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Rollicking, rib-tickling 'Roaring 20s' comedy gem -- a diamond among the Woodman's recent rough.
gbrumburgh-121 November 2002
Sadly, I've been let down by most of Woody Allen's recent comedies. So it was most rewarding indeed to see the Woodman back again true to form (after a lengthy drought) with 1994's Bullets Over Broadway." Fun, foamy, and clever, it has everything we've come to love and expect from the man.

While "Take the Money and Run" and "Bananas" first turned trendy audiences on to his unique brand of improvisational, hit-and-miss comedy episodes, and the more neurotic, self-examining cult hits like "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" cemented his Oscar-winning relationship with Hollywood, the comedy genius has stumbled mightily in this last decade. Attempting to contemporize his image with the coarse, foul-mouthed antics of a Coen or Farrelly brother (see "Mighty Aphrodite") is simply beneath him, and has been about as productive as Stevie Wonder taking a turn at hip-hop. Moreover, casting himself as a 65-year-old romantic protagonist with love interests young enough to be his grandchildren (see "Curse of the Jade Scorpion") has left a noticeably bad aftertaste of late. With "Bullets Over Broadway," however, Allen goes back to basics and wisely avoids the pitfalls of excessive toilet humor and self-aggrandizing casting, and gives us a light, refreshing bit of whimsical escapism. Woody may not be found on screen here, but his presence is felt throughout. Though less topical and analytical than his trademark films, this vehicle brings back a purer essence of Woody and might I say an early innocence hard-pressed to find these days in his work.

John Cusack (can this guy do no wrong?) plays a struggling jazz-era playwright desperate for a Broadway hit who is forced to sell out to a swarthy, aging king-pin (played to perfection by Joe Viterelli) who is looking to finance a theatrical showcase for his much-younger bimbo girlfirend (Jennifer Tilly, in a tailor-made role). The writer goes through a hellish rehearsal period sacrificing his words, not to mention his moral and artistic scruples, in order to appease his mob producers who know zilch about putting on a play. The rehearsal scenes alone are worth the price of admission.

Aside from Allen's clever writing, brisk pace and lush, careful attention to period detail, he has assembled his richest ensemble cast yet with a host of hysterically funny characters in spontaneous banter roaming in and about the proceedings. Cusack is his usual rock-solid self in the panicky, schelmiel role normally reserved for Woody. But even he is dwarfed by the likes of this once-in-a-lifetime supporting cast. Jennifer Tilly, with her doll-like rasp, is hilariously grating as the vapid, virulent, and thoroughly untalented moll. Usually counted on to play broad, one-dimensional, sexually belligerent dames, never has Tilly been give such golden material to feast on, putting her Olive Neal right up there in the 'top 5' fun-filled film floozies of all time, alongside Jean Hagen's Lina Lamont and Lesley Ann Warren's Norma Cassady. Virile, menacing Chazz Palminteri as the fleshy-lipped Cheech, a "dees, dem and dos" guard dog, reveals great comic prowess while affording his pin-striped hit man some touching overtones. Dianne Wiest, who has won bookend support Oscars in Woody Allen pictures (for this and for "Hannah and Her Sisters") doesn't miss a trick as the outre theatre doyenne Helen Sinclair, whose life is as grand and exaggerated off-stage as it is on. Her comic brilliance is on full, flamboyant display, stealing every scene she's in. Tracey Ullman is a pinch-faced delight as the exceedingly anal, puppy-doting ingenue, while Jim Broadbent as a fusty stick-in-the-mud gets his shining moments when his actor's appetite for both food and women get hilariously out of hand. Mary-Louise Parker, as Cusack's cast-off mate, gets the shortest end of the laughing stick, but lends some heart and urgency to the proceedings.

While the play flirts with a burlesque-styled capriciousness, there is an undercoating of seriousness and additional character agendas that keeps the cast from falling into one-note caricatures. And, as always, Woody's spot-on selection of period music is nonpareil. With healthy does of flapper-era Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, not to mention the flavorful vocal stylings of Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, Allen, with customary finesse, affectionately transports us back to the glitzy, gin-peddling era of Prohibition and slick Runyonesque antics.

I remember the times when the opening of a new Woody Allen film was a main event. As such, "Bullets Over Broadway" is a comedy valentine to such days. In any respect, it's a winner all the way, especially for Woodyphiles.
25 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Highly recommended
AKS-67 August 1999
Of all the Woody Allen films that I have seen (not that many, I confess) this movie and "Everyone says 'I Love You'" are the ones that I have enjoyed the most. "Bullets Over Broadway" is a very funny, clever, and entertaining comedy. The acting is top-notch; Dianne Wiest is fantastic, Jennifer Tilly and Chazz Palminteri are great and John Cusack is as good as ever, that is: he is extremely good.

So, I enjoyed this film immensely, I laughed a lot, and I thoroughly recommend it.
29 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
A Strong Supporting Cast Dominates the Action
tfrizzell28 June 2000
A Woody Allen written and directed film that does not include him in a single frame. It may seem strange, but it's true. Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway" deals with a struggling stage writer (John Cusack) who is so desperate to get one of his plays on Broadway in the 1920s that he reluctantly enlists the help of the local mafia crime lord to fund the play. Of course there is a large stipulation. The crime lord's girl must be in the play (hilariously played by Jennifer Tilly in an Oscar-nominated role). Needless to say she's terrible and Cusack struggles with her in the play. However, he has booked A-list actress Dianne Wiest (in her second Oscar-winning role) who is an alcoholic who has seen better days in her career. Tilly's bodyguard (Chazz Palminteri, also in an Oscar-nominated role) sees the play rehearsed firsthand and gives Cusack some directions on the project that Cusack cannot refuse. Palminteri is street smart and knows how people really talk, while Cusack is so educated that his words make no sense to the normal audience. This film is what "The Godfather" would have been like if Allen had directed it. The screenplay is outstanding and Allen's direction has rarely been better. Cusack is fun and hilarious, but it is the supporting cast that makes the movie work. Other than the aforementioned Oscar-nominated actors, there are great turns by several others. Mary-Louise Parker, Tracy Ullman, Jim Broadbent, Jack Warden, Rob Reiner, Harvey Feinstein, and Joe Viterelli are all superb in well-calculated supporting roles. 4 out of 5 stars.
16 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Great but not one of my favorites from Woody Allen!
Syl31 December 2006
This film is typical of Woody Allen's brilliance. He creates the scene about 1920's New York theater scene with scene stealer Dianne Weist who wins her second academy award again with Woody Allen plays a theater dame with a grandiose presence who takes on John Cusack's character. Of course, the play has problems getting produced. They filmed it at the real Belasco Theater in New York where I saw Jackie with Margaret Colin in 1997. Of course, that's what makes Woody Allen's films special is that he always films it in New York. I don't recall him as an actor in this film. He was wise enough to pass the role over to Cusack who does a superb job playing Woody's younger self. Anyway, Tilly does a terrific job playing an annoying and terrible actress but girlfriend of a mobster. What she wants is what she usually gets. First rate cast with Chaz Palminteri who was nominated along with Tilly for supporting acting Oscars. I hope Woody Allen will finally be recognized for his genius and get top honors like the National Medal of the Arts and honored by the Kennedy Center finally for his work. Nobody does New York like Woody Allen, of course, we all would like a bit of diversity in his films.
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
"I'm NOT An Artist -- Thank God!"
allan19699 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
These last two words were what SHOULD have been added to the last line of the film to make this excellent movie even better. John Cusack, in one of his better roles, plays an aspiring playwright during the 1920s, and considers himself to be a great one--although he later learns that he really isn't. Like his Marxist-inclined intellectual friend Flender (Rob Reiner, looking very much the part), Cusack thinks that art is of supreme importance, perhaps even more important than human life itself. Discussing art in a Greenwich Village cafe, Reiner gives the analogy of a burning building: if you could rush in and save only one of two things--a human being or the last known copy of Shakespeare's works, which would you save? His answer, of course, is Shakespeare's works. Why say such a horrible thing? Because to intellectuals, art "lives." You'd have no right to "deprive the world of this great art" just to save the life of "an anonymous human being," he says. Cusack agrees. But this belief is put to the test when in order to save a work of art, gangster Cheech (well-played by Chazz Palmentieri) actually commits murder. Cusack then realizes that no work of art is worth a human life after all. At this point, Cusack says, "I'm NOT an artist." This, I think, is the film's underlying, Dostoevskian theme: that because intellectuals deal in art and ideas, they place far too much value on such abstractions, and correspondingly too little value on human life. Didn't the 20th century prove how deadly this insane notion can be? Now we see Deep Greens telling us that the life of a human being is no more valuable than the life of a tree or a dog! I wish all the Deep Greens would watch this fine movie and be disabused of their inhumane notions. For my part, I can also say that if art is to be considered more important than human life, "I'm not an artist--Thank God."
12 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Guys and Dolls
evanston_dad17 March 2009
Woody Allen sends up the world of Broadway and the gangsters who love it in this Runyonesque comedy, one of his very best.

John Cusack is the Allen surrogate, a nebbish playwright who's struggling to remain true to his artistic vision amongst countless obstacles. Those obstacles include: a gangster's girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) who Cusack is forced to cast in a lead role; her bodyguard (Chazz Palmienteri), who reveals quite a few dramatic instincts; a high-maintenance diva (Dianne Wiest, uproarious); a leading man who eats too much (Jim Broadbent); and a dithery actress very much in love with her dog (Tracy Ullman).

Because Allen sets his movie in a world he knows well (NY theatre), this feels like one of his strongest and most realized screenplays. The whole thing is a riot. Between Wiest, Tilly and Ullman, I still can't decide who's funniest.

Grade: A
8 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
funny and well made, but not one of Woody's best
TheNorthernMonkee12 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS Woody Allen has written some brilliant work over the years. With classics like "Sleeper" and Manhattan Murder Mystery", Allen has created some of the funniest comedy to come out of New York in recent years. "Bullets Over Broadway" absent of Allen, Diane Keaton and other Allen regulars is not quite up there however with the finest, but it's still brilliant.

David Shayne (John Cusack) is a struggling playwright in 1920's Broadway. With financing from the mob, Shayne seems to be finally catching a break. Unfortunately this break doesn't go in quite the direction he wants.

In a role distinctively "Woody", Cusack is a brilliant, young leading light with a bit of a complex. He is superbly aided by a cast including Oscar winner Dianne Wiest, Chazz Palminteri, Jennifer Tilly and Jim Broadbent. In fact, the one key problem with this film is the notable absence of Woody himself.

The comedy itself is as good as most Allen work. With some classic lines and some hilarious scenes, "Bullets Over Broadway" is witty and funny. It does feel distinctively like something is lacking however, whether Allen himself or a different camera style, it feels different to most of his films. Still, sometimes change is good.

"Bullets Over Broadway" is an entertaining piece of Woody Allen history. With a superb cast it is a brilliantly witty film. Not quite Allen's greatest work, it remains a piece of fun. There are better Woody Allen films out there, but this is still well worth a watch.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Chazz Is Good, But Cusack's Loudness Ruined Film
ccthemovieman-12 August 2007
There was period in the early '90s where Chazz Palminteri was on a roll.. He emerged as a "name" actor and was really entertaining and even likable as a killer, as in "A Bronx Tale." This movie, "Bullets Over Broadway," was another example of him looking good. Palminteri, as "Cheech," was great to watch in this film.

Unfortunately, his other two costars were not entertaining, especially John Cusack, as playwright "David Shayne." Cusack's character shouted, ranted and raved throughout his scenes. Yeah, I know he is supposed to deliberately overact, but that still doesn't make it fun to hear. His hysterics really begin to grate on you after awhile and especially if you watch this movie twice, which I did.

I liked the story and Palminteri, and could put up with Jennifer Tilley's deliberately-stupid bimbo character "Olive Neal," but "Shayne" finally did me in. His character ruined the movie forever.
9 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
A real "Trompe D'oeil"
Maciste_Brother13 March 2007
Trompe d'oeil is a French expression which means an image that looks perfectly normal at a glance and yet when you look at it closely, you see something is not quite right. There's something askew about it. Something is off.

Well, this is what I get when I watch "Bullets Over Broadway". Everything about it looks like a great film: the cast is amazing, the script is sharp, the story is cool. And yet there's something really off about it. When I watched it I felt that it was off by a few seconds, like one of those delays which happen when things are transmitted over long distances. The pacing, the composition, the lighting, almost everything about "Bullets Over Broadway" felt out of sync. This is the problem with screwball comedies: if the pacing and the delivery are not just right, then everything looks good, like your standard film, but it's missing something important, missing an important ingredient to gel the whole thing together.

I really wanted to enjoy "Bullets Over Broadway". Alas, the whole thing missed the mark. It's not bad by any means. In my opinion, it just doesn't work.
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
I have to disagree
Janet Christian29 July 2007
If you are a die-hard Woody Allen fan then this movie is probably right up your alley. But four of us attempted to watch it and gave up after 27 minutes. EVERY character has the typical "neurotic, angst-filled" personality Woody Allen is famous for. Watching Woody Allen movies is exhausting, and after a while, boring. All (or most) characters are cut from the same cloth and it gets tiresome sorting through all the whiny, self-important dialog. Mr. Allen needs to learn that not everyone out there has the stereotypical Jewish personality he does and that he loves to foist on others in his movies. He insults his audience and doesn't do much for the image of the American Jew either.
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Akin to dental surgery without benefit of Novacaine
mnpollio20 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A film so criminally overrated and staggeringly unfunny as to defy description. Allen takes a very promising concept and somehow manages to craft a film that is devoid of hilarity.

Idealistic playwright John Cusack finds the backing to mount his play from a gangster. The catch is that in return the gangster's bimbo mistress Jennifer Tilly is to be cast as a psychiatrist in the play. Henchman Chazz Palminteri is dispatched to babysit Tilly and coach her in acting, but in the process makes suggestions to Cusack's play that dramatically improve its quality.

This should be hilarious - yet it is not. I don't think I cracked a smile once during the entire course of the film. I have begun to believe that it is utterly impossible for Allen to write genuinely likable or appealing characters - even within the constraints of a broad fable such as this one. Nearly everyone we see on screen is selfish, obnoxious and nasty.

Too many scenes are directed as though by chaos. For instance, I lost count of how many scenes start or ended with a group of characters stationed at different points of the set and shrieking their lines at each other, often at the same time, so that the scene is reduced to a wall of incoherent noise.

While Allen thankfully delivers us from taking on the leading man duties again, Cusack is simply too bland and uninteresting to hold attention or anchor the action. Tracey Ullman, Mary-Louise Parker and Jim Broadbent are wasted in underwritten roles. Dianne Wiest gets to ham it up as a legendary Broadway diva brought in to headline the show. While she throws herself body and soul into the part, her lampoon of the haughty dowager becomes repetitive. This is a fault of the screenplay more than the actress. She is playing a caricature and one that we have seen done better and funnier in other films. The first time she strikes a pose like Greta Garbo and admonishes Cusack "Don't speak!" is barely amusing. By the umpteenth time she has done this throughout the film, it has ceased to have any comedic impact at all.

Apparently the majority of the comedy is supposed to come from the interactions between Palminteri's flustered gun man and Tilly's bimbo. Unfortunately, their scenes are incredibly unpleasant. Palminteri is stuck playing a stereotypical goombah (with the twist that he writes better than Cusack) and Tilly is the quintessential floozy. Both of them hate each - and I mean they really hate each other. Their line readings are loud and shrill and generate all of the charm of a legion of car alarms going off at the same time. There is almost a collective sigh of relief when their scenes conclude and their dialog pretty much goes along the lines of "Why don't you shut up!", "No, you shut up!", "You shut up!", and "You shut up yourself!" Oh, the hilarity. It must have taken Allen all of five minutes to fabricate this winning dialog.

By the time the film itself rolls to its unsurprising conclusion, one realizes that you don't care about any of these characters and you want back the time that Allen and his minions have stolen from your life. A real endurance test akin to dental surgery without benefit of Novacaine.
5 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Pretty high-standard Woody offering
thehumanduvet20 February 2001
This is a charming and funny film from the Woody Allen canon, featuring a fine performance from John Cusack as the standard Allen character, the nervy, unfaithful creative type, this time a prohibition era playwright whose play is put on as a vanity project for Meg Tilly's truly horrible gangster's moll. The wacky goings-on at the theatre and the interplay between the luvvy theatre types and the mobsters provide most of the laughs, while the relationship between Cusack and Chazz Palminteri's hit-man is the central story, Cusack's realisation that a true artistic gift is just that and not something that can be learned or acquired just by wanting it. As usual with Allen a brilliant cast is assembled and all allowed to shine, music and sets are sublime and the dialog is a scream throughout. Perhaps not his greatest but certainly better than most writer-directors manage in a lifetime.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Artists, like criminals, have their own moral universe. But Don't Speak that to any of them!
Rodrigo Amaro8 September 2011
Because they would take advantage of you with such positive remark. Artists and criminals and their little and complex worlds of being powerful gods, creatures who can create and destroy at the same time. The power of the criminals, gangsters in this case, are the use of his weapons against their enemies or whoever appears on their way; artists like the play writer/director in this film has the power of creativity, words are carefully chosen, scenes and dialogs are marvelously written in order to make the most fantastic creation of all, and the writer has the final word on everything. Well, almost everything.

John Cusack's character is a down-on-luck author who finally gets the chance of developing his play in the way he wants, at first by resurrecting the career of diva Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest) and selecting his favorite actors. But his luck ends when the play's financier, a mobster (Joe Viterelli) gives the ultimate that his girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) must have a part on the show, but she has never acted before. The guy gets toyed by this goofy and demanding new actress, by her tough bodyguard (Chazz Palminteri) who'll try to change the play's script, always bothered by the "irrealism" of it; and at last the less negative interference of Sinclair, of whom he madly falls in love with. As the movie progresses we keep asking ourselves: "There's a real chance of this play ever become a hit?" and "How does this writer will ever make his way through fame with such interferences?". While the work of his life gets deconstructed in a turbulence of confusion we keep laughing at all of his drama, or at the other characters eccentric ways of doing things.

Outrageously comical "Bullets Over Broadway" is Woody Allen's sound and fury on the power of artistic creations and how they happen, and the way they're developed, constantly changing from what they used to be. Here's a treasure to be admired; it leaves you in a complete state of amazement, a powerful ecstasy. Hilarious situations are wonderfully created, not a single moment is wasted or let down, everything is a feast for our senses from the magnificent casting to the art direction, costumes and cinematography. Allen at his greatest, so enjoy the spectacle! 10/10
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Awesome Woody Allen
kgdakotafan1 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This was one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. The only other Woody Allen movie I've seen is "Annie Hall", and I liked this so much more! The reason I wanted to see this movie was because Jennifer Tilly stars in it; furthermore, she was nominated for an Oscar because of her performance in it. In the middle of this crime/comedy, I realized why. I predicted that the mobster would shoot her because she wasn't as good as the understudy in the play that she was forced to be casted in because her boyfriend, the mobster (Joe Viterelli) was funding the production for an aspiring and talented writer who had recently made flops because as he claims "I wasn't able to direct them." This play he was able to direct.

It's well-known that actors and actresses who play characters who die in film are more likely to be nominated or to win an Oscar. While Jennifer Tilly played the stupid moll, mobster's girlfriend well, her death should have been the addition that made her win. Unfortunately, Diane Wiest won in a very overacted performance.

This movie is hysterical, and makes you realize that art can come from the most unexpected of places

1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Woody should have been in this one
emdragon29 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Bullets over Broadway has one of the best casts for a Woody Allen film ever. John Cusack, Chazz Palmenteri, Dianne Weist, Mary-Louise Parker, Jennifer Tilly, Jack Warden, Tracy Ullman, Rob Reiner, and a slew of good character actors. And the premise is good. A playwright who wants to see his "work of art" transformed into a masterpiece on a Broadway stage and not hacked to pieces by producers and directors and actors who take it upon themselves to change the script. This movie has much of what has made the Woody Allen films work in the past. Great music from the jazz era in New York city, which is where and when this movie is set; excellent and well developed script and characterizations, and even good cinematography. BUT. . . and alas, this picture tends to run just a bit uneven and even feels canned some of the time, especially during the ending (which is not atypical of some of Allen's earlier works as well). The actors occasionally tend to look as though they could have used one more rehearsal. Mostly I wish Woody had played the John Cusack role of playwright/director David Shayne, who starts out thinking he is a great artist but comes to find out he knows almost nothing about life, letting the chanteuse's bodyguard take over the script writing of the play he is bringing to Broadway. It is a funny premise, and overall I liked the film. How could I not, I ultimately asked myself. But I will quibble. It could have had more humor had Woody played the playwright himself. Not that Cusack does a bad job, he is just not as funny as Woody is. And Jennifer Tilly gets a bit over the top at times playing the bimbo chanteuse Olive O'Neal. She tries just a shade too hard to sound completely stupid at times. However, much of the time she does perfectly well. That said, I loved Dianne Wiest and Chazz Palminteri in this picture. They seemed to have a handle on their roles a bit better than the rest of the cast. All in all this picture earns about 7 and a half stars (out of 10) from me. But it is not QUITE a classic Woody Allen picture as some have suggested, and as Woody himself would admit (I'll bet) if he were pinned down. And he has made a lot of real gems along the way.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Mostly firing blanks
ian_harris30 January 2003
I'm a big fan of Woody Allen and rarely do his films disappoint, but I found this piece rather lame and tame for my taste.

The plot is weak, but I could live with that. The main shortcoming is the two-dimensional characters. Woody Allen has a great eye for talent, so we have an opportunity to see John Cusack, Jim Broadbent, Tracey Ullman and Diane Weiss all do their stuff, but the characters are so weak these fine actors have so little room to display their talents.

The piece felt a bit "Woody by numbers" to me - I could see the strings where usually I would be surprised and delighted - the way Olive's minder develops being the prime example of spotting the manipulation.

This movie tries to address some big issues - "is the art more important than the man" being one such, but it tackles the issues without subtlety.

For big issues, try Crimes and Misdemeanours instead. For Broadway charm, try Broadway Danny Rose. Both these films are fine films in their own very different ways. By way of contrast, "Bullets" is mostly firing blanks.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Completely ruined by overacting!
L. Denis Brown28 July 2009
I can not share the generally enthusiastic opinion of this film shown by most other IMDb database users. I am sorry about this as I want to like it - its main theme, contrasting the relative importance of love and art, both for Society and for most of its individual members, is significant for us all; and it is a very visually appealing presentation giving an excellent depiction of New York city as it was some 80 or more years ago, mainly in shades of brown that are never jarring to the eyes. I am not one of those who dislike Woody Allen's work .The Purple Rose of Cairo and Love and Death (where he showed he was able to combine farce with both fairly natural dialogue and his beloved philosophical discussions, this deserted him in BOB) are both treasured parts of my private movie collection. Although BOB is largely free of the artificial dialogue which spoils many of Woody's other films, it was spoilt by unrelenting and continuous overacting. Many films include at least one actor guilty of this heinous sin, but when they almost all do so the fault probably lies squarely with the Director. Here you could watch a few minutes culled from almost any point in the film and be confident of finding a shouting match, or characters waving their arms about like windmills.

Many cinema fans do not like watching silent films because of the overacting they are said to feature. This is conventionally explained by the absence of dialogue forcing a greater emphasis on gesture, but John Barrymore even in some of his most unrestrained roles seldom continued exaggerated gesturing beyond the point when it was needed; and this need was often due more to difficulty in creating effective close ups than to the absence of sound, problems that co-existed in those early days. Today an actor can convey a world of meaning whilst quietly sitting at a table by, for example, just raising an eyebrow and uttering the word "Really" in an appropriately questioning tone. In silent days a one word caption "Really" would be almost as effective but the scene at the table, filmed from 5 or 10 metre away, would not do justice to the raised eyebrow in the same way as a modern close up, filmed from a distance of no more than a metre; so I can watch, for example, the 1925 version of Ben Hur more readily than I can Bullets over Broadway - improved technology has made us much less tolerant of artefacts that destroy the intended atmosphere. Fans of BOB claim the behaviour shown in this film is in fact typical of interactions between the types of character being portrayed, and the overacting is not as severe as I am suggesting. I doubt if this is true, but even if so the film itself makes it clear that this would be no excuse. The gangster's hit man Cheech in an early sequence explains carefully that it is no good presenting any dramatic work in a manner with which a viewer cannot empathise - depicted dialogue and behaviour must always be adapted to what would be expected and accepted by the potential audience. I do not live among people who shout and wave their arms about all the time, although I will of course accept such behaviour in a film where it is a natural response to a stressful situation; but if I do not live among people who behave like that, I am not likely to watch a film that shows everyone doing so continuously, for very long before I turn it off - or at the very least feel compelled to complain, as I am doing now.

Bullets over Broadway is of course dangerously close to being a direct copy of the film Mistress, released a couple of years or so earlier, the stories are almost identical, except that the locale has been changed from Hollywood to New York and the film being produced has become a stage play. The same type of moral and artistic issues are brought out in both of them. Mistress was not so well enjoyed by IMDb users, but it is very interesting to compare the impact created by the two works. Whereas BOB plays more like a farce most of the time, Mistress provides biting satire which for me is both more enjoyable and far more effective. It was extremely well acted by almost all the cast, and Robert De Niro in particular gives a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination. No wonder the Hollywood elite did not like it, many of its barbs must have struck very close to home! Recently, after watching Bullets over Broadway I re-watched part of Mistress to decide whether my more favourable recollections of it were justified. I noted one short slanging match develop towards the end, this was quickly cut short by another character telling the perpetrator to calm down. Back to reality - this was all I really needed to see.. Mistress was real enough for me to feel like an outsider watching events happening, whereas BOB was definitely more like watching entertainers trying to keep me amused. For me the wrong film has been made available on DVD.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Funny and profound
Jaymay14 December 2002
I remember liking this movie a lot when I saw it in the theater. I

recently caught it again on HBO and was struck by the deeper

thematic resonance that you might not pick up on first viewing.

The character of Flender speaks the film's theme for his own

shallow reasons. He says, "True artists create their own moral

universe." Flender uses this mantra to rationalize boinking his

friend's girlfriend. But it is true nonetheless. Artists believe that

great art transcends human life, because it perserveres through

generations and it enriches the lives of countless people. On one

side this is a beautiful notion. But the flip side of the notion is


The artistic ideal is unforgiving: it demands everything from its

devotees. That's why many a great artist (Picasso, Pollack,

Hemingway) has broken hearts and even killed rather than


Most people in the world don't live that way. They follow the golden

rule. This moral integrity allows them to feel at one with humanity,

and it gives them a sense of peace and self-worth.

For artists (like gangsters), civility is a luxury. If they want to

achieve greatness, they have to be willing to push mediocrity, and

mediocre people, aside.

Chazz Palmentieri (not Joe Mantegna, as some have incorrectly

stated) plays Cheech, a gangster who discovers he has a passion

for writing. He's willing to kill and die for his work, and that's what

makes him an artist. John Cusack plays David, a playwright who

has great ambition and even great good fortune, but who realizes,

through his association with Cheech, that he is not willing to

sacrifice his common humanity, and therefor, he is not an artist.

I think this is one of Woody Allen's best films (in the top three or

four). But I have to believe that Douglas McGrath had a great deal

to do with the script, since Woody's other recent efforts are far

inferior to this. So I applaud Doug McGrath, from one artist to

2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Better as a drama
Eric Stevenson21 June 2018
I admit that I miss not seeing Woody Allen himself in the movies he made, but this was just fine. This movie tells the story of the problems a group of people go through when trying to make a play. It's kind of weird that this would be qualified as a comedy, because it really wasn't. There were definitely funny bits in it. My favorite was when Helen said she hadn't drank since New Year's. That is, Chinese New Year's, which was a few days ago.

I'm just so impressed at how authentic this movie is. They really wanted to set the mood for what life was like in the 1920's. I didn't even recognize Jennifer Tilly at first, but I did recognize her voice. This film is lit up by great conversations, especially the one where they talk about how they don't feel much when they kill a person. It's not as big a classic as "Annie Hall" but is still great. Don't speak, I know just what you're saying. ***1/2
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Woody Allen in fine form
grantss1 April 2018
New York, 1928. David Shayne is a playwright and his last two movies have bombed. He has a new play and wants to direct it himself. However, he is unable to find a financier for his play until Nick Valenti comes along. Slight problem - Valenti is a mobster, and he now insists that his talentless girlfriend, Olive Neal, get the lead role. Things are about to get very complicated.

Written and directed by Woody Allen and here he is in fine form (as he was throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s). Clever and very funny. Biting humour, smart plot and snappy dialogue.

Great performances. John Cusack is solid in the lead role but it is the supporting cast who shine. Dianne Wiest got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her efforts. Chaz Palminteri and Jennifer Tilly got Oscar nominations, for Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed