Bullets Over Broadway (1994) Poster

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8/10
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.
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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.
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8/10
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.
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8/10
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.
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9/10
"You better get in the mood, honey, 'cause he's payin' the rent."
Galina_movie_fan20 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".

9.5/10
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8/10
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.
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8/10
takes on the egotistical qualities in artists- and gangsters- in Allen's very funny send-up of Broadway
Quinoa198415 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.
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9/10
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
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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.
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Dianne Wiest Is Perfection
drednm24 April 2019
Witty and waspish Broadway story directed by Woody Allen and co-written by Allen and Douglas McGrath is a fond look at a bygone era.

John Cusack plays a struggling playwright who agrees hire the no-talent Olive (Jennifer Tilly) in order to have a mobster back his new play. The mobster assigned a stooge (Chazz Palminteri) to watch over Olive and make sure she doesn't cheat on him.

Cusack and his agent (Jack Warden) talk fading Broadway star Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest) into starring in the play, but as the play struggles in rehearsals, the stooge (Palminteri) starts to make constructive criticisms that launch the play in a different direction. As the rehearsals catch fire, it become obvious that Olive must go ... and go she does.

While the main characters are all well played, it's Dianne Wiest who growls and guzzles her way to a sublime performance (and a well-deserved Oscar) as the haughty star who never plays frumps or virgins.

Others in the cast include Mary-Louise Parker as Cusack's drab girlfriend, Tracey Ullman as the actress with a dog, Harvey Fierstein, Rob Reiner, Jim Broadbent, and Joe Viterelli as the mobster. Edie Falco plays the small role of the assistant director.

The film is aided by the usual impeccable production design by Santo Loquasto and costumes by Jeffrey Kurland. The music is also spot on.
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9/10
Great but not one of my favorites from Woody Allen!
Sylviastel31 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.
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3/10
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.
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4/10
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.
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3/10
I have to disagree
janet-9129 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.
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3/10
Completely ruined by overacting!
bbhlthph28 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.
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10/10
hilarious and serious
blanche-27 June 2000
I'd have a hard time choosing between this film and Crimes and Misdemeanors as my favorite Woody Allen film. Bullets uses much more comedy to ask its serious question -- what, after all, constitutes a true artist -- than Crimes does. Wonderful performances and ideas that stay with you for a long time afterwards - especially if you have any artistic aspirations yourself.
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7/10
pretty good Woody
SnoopyStyle7 January 2016
In the late 20's NYC, idealistic playwright David Shayne (John Cusack) is trying to get his play on Broadway. He gets finance from ruthless gangster Nick Valenti but he has to cast Nick's talentless loud-mouthed girlfriend Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly). He is horrified that he's whoring himself out. Her surprisingly-insightful escort Cheech (Chazz Palminteri), not Mr. Cheech, starts making great suggestions. David falls for aging leading star Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest) and cheats on his girlfriend Ellen (Mary-Louise Parker). Olive has an affair with leading man Warner Purcell (Jim Broadbent).

It's an irreverent Woody Allen movie taking a sharp jab at the backstage world with a healthy dose of mob violence. There are some hilarious moments but I do want more. I keep thinking that the movie is on the verge of great madcap fun. This is a pretty good Woody movie just below some of his greats.
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10/10
Alongside Husbands and Wives and Manhattan Murder Mystery, one of Woody Allen's best films of the 90s
TheLittleSongbird11 August 2014
Not among Woody Allen's top 5 best films but of the films I've seen of his so far- 36 altogether- Bullets Over Broadway's in the top 10. The period detail looks absolutely incredible and the whole film is photography beautifully, everything just looks so glitzy and glamorous without being too idealised. Tilly's costumes are also to die for. The wonderful score, somewhat a mix of jazz and Broadway, adds a huge amount to the period, the music itself is catchy penned by greats like George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart and Cole Porter and the vocals are similarly great. Allen gives some of his best direction in Bullets Over Broadway and the screenplay is sheer brilliance, a vast majority of the lines are hilarious and intelligent(Allen in his films has a lot to say about his subjects and on the most part knows how to say it) in a way that is distinctive of Allen's style and there are some quotable ones too. Love also that the comedy has a light-hearted, biting and whimsical touch without going overboard in either area, and Allen to not make things too one-note includes a seriousness that is well pitched and balanced and an ironic ending that rounds things off nicely. The story goes at a brisk pace and the rehearsal and theatre scenes are incredibly entertaining. A great job is also done with how the characters are written and expanded, though it is a case of the supporting characters being more memorable than the leading one with Helen Sinclair and Cheech especially so. The ensemble performances are great, John Cusack has a difficult task playing Allen's younger alter ego and while you don't quite shake off the feeling that Allen himself would have been better in the role(though you can understand why he didn't) Cusack is actually one of the best actors that have attempted to play Allen's younger alter ego along with Will Ferrell in Melinda and Melinda and Seth Green in Radio Days, something that inevitably has had mixed results(as seen with Jason Biggs in Anything Else and especially Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity). Jennifer Tilly and Joe Viterelli are fine in tailor-made roles, true Tilly is a touch annoying and over-enthusiastic at times but seeing as it's part of the character it's not a problem at all. Jim Broadbent is marvellous and has rarely been more adorable and Mary Louise Parker, Jack Warden and Tracy Ullman provide plenty of humour and heart too. Harvey Fierstein is good and it is interesting to see Rob Reiner in a small role. But the best performances for me were Dianne Wiest, who won an Oscar and deservedly so in a performance that sees Wiest at her comic best(she's never been funnier), and Chazz Palminteri who is menacing, very amusing and sometimes charming, a gangster with a heart and the soul of a poet if you will. Overall, a wonderful film and one of Woody Allen's best of the 90s. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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5/10
John Cusack playing Woody Allen .........
merklekranz8 September 2013
"Bullets Over Broadway" doesn't work for the same reason other Woody Allen comedies he's written but not starred in don't work. It's very simple, having someone else playing a character that has all the Woody insecurities and mannerisms leaves one wishing for Allen to be playing the part, and feeling cheated that he isn't in the film. Such is the case with John Cusack's playwright character. What you get is a Woody Allen clone that simply can't deliver the comedy intended by Allen. The cast is game, but fine comedians Jennifer Tilly, Jack Warden, and Rob Reiner, don't deliver enough chuckles to overcome the lack of Woody Allen playing the part he obviously was meant to play. - MERK
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9/10
Woody at His Best
Hitchcoc16 November 2001
This is a nicely paced comedy out of the tradition of the 1940's when people didn't take themselves so seriously. A playwright who has developed an inflated view of his work is faced with the fact that he has sold out to a gangster to get his play on Broadway. The kicker is that to do this he must cast the guy's self absorbed girlfriend in one of the important roles. She has the childlike rasping voice that would lend even a good actress impotent. But she must be there. The other side of the equation is that the playwright just isn't very good. He eventually makes his success with the aid of a super talented neanderthal bodyguard who does the rewrites and critiques the playwright's work. Throw into the mix the angst experienced by the principle character, a group of volatile or unpredictable actors, not to mention the mob and their expectations, and you have one of the funniest films Woody Allen has ever done. Woody my not appear in this one, but his being is plastered all over it. Every time I begin to count him out, I am surprised by one of the greatest geniuses of our time.
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10/10
Superb
mls418219 December 2021
A wonderfully written and directed comedy with an excellent cast. A motley cast of characters who are all narcissistic, delusional incompetent.

Every actor is perfect in their role but Diane Wiest and Meh Tully ate standouts. One of the last witty and truly funny comedies.
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8/10
"Don't Speak!"
nycritic16 June 2007
It's to be said that sometimes the viewer -- us -- can view a picture and think, "How idiotic was that film's screenwriter to have had this-or-that character behave in this-or that way, or say those awful things? It completely stops the movie dead in its tracks." It's why there's a critic in all of us, writers and movie goers alike, it's why those who can watch will be able to judge accordingly even if we may not be totally right or even able to reproduce what we are seeing.

Now, the premise of BULLETS OVER Broadway is just that: a playwright finds a producer for his play in the Roaring Twenties. The catch is, the producer in charge for the plays financing is a mobster. The second catch is, he wants his outrageously stupid moll to play the lead. But the third has to be the strangest of them all: one of the mobster's henchmen happens to know this play better than its very own playwright. He thinks that the moll makes a terrible actress. He literally... takes over.

And that's it. Woody Allen thankfully is not present in this movie other than its writer and director -- it is becoming something of a stretch to see Allen, who is about as visually inviting as an eyesore and has those ticks in speech that were cute in the Seventies but now amount to little more than hiccups laced with mothballs. John Cusack, seen in SHADOWS AND FOG, takes over the "writer" in this story but doesn't try to act like Allen (a tendency every actor who's subbed for Allen has done since Michael Murphy mirrored Allen in MANHATTAN, Michael Caine did in HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, and so on). Chazz Palmenteri, however, really takes over and drives the movie through and through, being the brains behind the play in production and a thoroughly masculine presence that somehow becomes more and more feminine as the movie walks towards its conclusion. Jennifer Tilly, the moll patterned (at least in the likeness of) Clara Bow, is the bimbo and plays it to the hilt. Dianne Wiest is again on board, this time playing completely against type as a self-absorbed stage actress who throughout the entire movie makes "Don't speak!" hilarious. A fun ride with a shoot-'em-up finale, this was one of Woody Allen's best films of the Nineties after the Mia scandal, because after this one his movies began a sharp decline in quality and what had been up until then been an anticipated wait -- to see a release of the new Woody Allen film of the year -- had by the end of the Nineties been an "Eh... whatever" thing.
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Overrated for an Allen film
topcat-123 September 2004
While many raved about this film, I felt it belonged in the bottom half of Allen's offerings. Still, an average Woody Allen film is better than 90% of what comes out of Hollywood. This movie relies more on situations and characters for its humor so is therefore very low on jokes. Its mostly a wry comment on Broadway theatre. All the stereotypical characters are there, gloriously overplayed by everyone, but as someone who is in theater, I felt the in-jokes and observations to be only mildly amusing. I suppose if you're in the right mood for something campy, it could be a howl and the acting is marvelous. Woody always gets an astonishing array of top actors but you need more than mere theatrics. If you're a Woody Allen fan and have somehow missed this one, by all means add it to the list. If you're just discovering him, you would do better to start somewhere else with his funnier, more accessible movies. p.s. Most underrated - Shadows and Fog. Funniest, by sheer volume of good jokes - Deconstructing Harry.
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10/10
Great Movie
icebox2715 January 2004
I come across a movie that I really like maybe once or twice a year. Virtually everything that Hollywood churns out is predictable, unoriginal, not interesting, and (if a comedy) not funny. This movie is clever, different, funny and thoroughly enjoyable. It's a great movie with a great cast that I would recommend to anyone.
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2/10
"I don't think her spinal cord touches her brain"
Koceny17 August 2021
This is 'too much talking, too much empty words and boring and annoying characters' type of movie.

Was really looking forward, the plot is interesting, but the dialogues- cannot believe it how annoying and boring they can be.

The title of this movie should be: how to ruin perfectly good story with a dialogues.

I gave it 2 points because of the scenography, which looks kind of 1920's New York.

All Woody Alan's characters talk in the same way, weather it is a 1950's housewife (Wonder Wheel) or 1920's poet (this move).

They gesticulate and talk in the same way, even the span between movies is more then 20 years. Fascinating!
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