Lansky (TV Movie 1999) Poster

(1999 TV Movie)

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So, what does actually tell this movie?!
Iva965 May 2005
To put it in a few words: not enough real facts, not deep psychological analysis of the characters. The only good thing about the movie is the acting. But it does not make it for the movie length...

After seeing the trailer, I waited the movie with very high expectations. I mean, hello, this was a movie about Meyer Lansky, the brain behind the Syndicate, one of the most influent mob leaders ever. An ocean of opportunities... And, what did I get for the two hours spent in front of the TV? just a big mark of question: "what did it want from me?!" There was not the rush and the fascinating action from "goodfellas" or "casino", nor the sympathetic romantic retrospective from "bugsy", and it was far from stories like "once upon a time in America". The biography is romanced and extremely brief. If you do not know the real life of Lansky, for sure you will not understand too many things from this movie. If you know it, you will be disappointed. And if the intention was to analyze the feelings and emotions of the character, well then, it didn't do it deep enough.
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Great Movie and Great Performance by Richard Dreyfuss
Brendan-246 October 1999
Richard Dreyfuss's performance in this riveting gangster movie confirms Richards place as one of the greatest actors of all time. Lansky is a power packed true story of the famous Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky. It has a distinct advantage over many other gangster movies in that it isn't all violence. While there are several violent scenes, we really get to know Lansky and feel for him. This is because of Richards great performance. His presence commands the attention of the viewer in all of his scenes. Anthony La Paglia also stands out as Lucky Luciano. I highly recommend this movie if you are looking for a smart, entertaining film with some action thrown in. A BRILLIANT MOVIE
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terribly executed biofilm
Yonhap S10 April 2000
If done well, this would be a very interesting movie, but as it is, it's very marginal. The shift from his youth days, to his 30's and 1978 gets very confusing. There are times the issue of Meyer Lansky being Jewish is brought up in the film, but later it's simply forgotten. That's the scenes during his childhood and the 1978 scenes. Between that, nothing. All we see in the film is only about Lansky, but it would have been interesting to see what his friends and enemies think and mean about him. I'm losing faith in HBO movies.

The verdict: 1.5 of 5 stars.
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Enough already
Doctor_Bombay28 February 1999
Made for HBO movies (particularly the ones with only one-word titles) have become the ‘in' thing these days. They carry a lot of prestige, and certain EMMY nomination for the lead (think Gary Sinise/Truman, Ving Rhames/Don King, Angelina Jolie/Gia). In fact, I'd venture a guess that most stars with a little forethought ask their agents ‘why can't I get one of those deals?'

They can be career builders, or a career jump-start, and suffice it to say there is incentive by many in the creative community to continue this lineage of quality programs.

But perhaps now the guild is off the rose. I mean, Meyer Lansky? The guy was boring in real life and even more so in the reincarnate. At least Gia was a lesbian drug addict.

Gangsters from Al Capone to Don Corleone have been romanticized quite successfully in films-but we know all that stuff. The made-for-HBO GOTTI should have foreshadowed to most that this genre has been overused, and abused.

Probably everything we need to know about Meyer Lansky we found out in fifteen minutes of BUGSY anyway.

Mamet's script is derivative and plodding, Richard Dreyfuss is not only unconvincing but over-the-top in his portrayal of Meyer Lansky. And the musical score is so retro-Godfather it's laughable.

Don't waste your time.
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what happen to Anna?
leda-931 July 2005
I saw the movie yesterday on HBO. Liked Robert Dreyfuss' performance very much. He is great! But didn't understand what happened to Lansky's first wife, Anna. She simply disappeared with no explanation and was suddenly "replaced" by Teddy. Did Anna die? Did the Lansky divorced? It seems that the producers made the movie only for the mob's admirers and/or experts, supposing that everybody would understand the story. There was a lack of some connections to make the movie understandable. Even so, I enjoyed it very much, especially because of Dreyfuss, who happens to be one of my favorite North American actors. Anthony La Paglia played well too and even Eric Roberts had a good performance.
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Interesting, but overall average gangster film.
Brad K.27 February 1999
I'd seen a preview for Lansky on HBO a couple of weeks ago and it looked like a fascinating movie. Too bad the film couldn't meet the expectations. Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland's Opus, Night Falls on Manhattan) stars as Meyer Lansky a gangster from the early 1900's. The film deals with his character throughout the film going back and forth from different ages. Dreyfuss is not the only actor to play Lansky in the film. Dreyfuss plays him from his 30's on, Max Perlich (Beautiful Girls, Georgia) plays him in his 20's, and a child actor plays him at a younger age. The film deals with his dealings in the mob and his family life. Eric Roberts (Runaway Train, Most Wanted) plays Bugsy Siegel and Anthony LaPaglia (The Client, Commandments) plays Lucky Luciano. Both of these actors do well, especially LaPaglia, but aren't given enough screen time. Richard Dreyfuss is very good in the lead, but is out-acted by Max Perlich playing Lansky in his earlier years. I know the film probably wanted a big name (Dreyfuss) but I would have preferred to see Perlich play him the whole time instead of Dreyfuss. The film takes some good choices on how to tell the story, but the story itself is kind of boring. It's interesting at times, but nothing special.
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This is no "Once upon a Time in America"
janet-553 March 2006
This film succeeds in portraying Meyer Lansky as a victim in the whole procedure. This has to be rubbish - wasn't he allegedly the brains behind most of the mobster operations and died with millions of dollars of his ill-gotten gains stashed away somewhere in Switzerland? The constant leaping backwards and forwards in time, while expertly handled in "Once Upon a Time in America" was clumsily handled in this film. Dreyfuss, though a good actor, was miscast and therefore seriously out of his depth here: this only served to increase my dissatisfaction with the film. And what did happen to Anna? Why was it assumed that everyone watching the film was as au fait with the story as David Mamet? The only times the film lit up was when either Eric Roberts or Anthony Lapaglia were on the screen. It's a pity it wasn't the story of "Lucky" Luciano. Lapaglia dwarfed Dreyfuss both physically and metaphorically every time they were on screen together. All in all if you like gangster movies fact or fiction, I'd advice you to miss this one.
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boring plodder of a film that should be much better
kevin-caprani4 June 2005
This tells the story of Meyer Lansky, a big time crook or not depending on your viewpoint, the film shows lansky as a guy in his old age looking back on his life in short clip flashbacks, it tells us the major events and the development of his crime empire, the script is poor the acting stilted, despite some major acting talent in the film, at no point is there any dramatic tension or blood stirring action, it meanders towards a totally unstartling conclusion, it turns out the lights, puts itself to bed, and goes to sleep with anyone watching having already got there an hour beforehand, really don't watch it, it should have been attention grabbing and entertaining, its a 1 out of ten for me.
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Pretty much a waste!
John-32010 September 2000
This movie could have been alot better. Meyer Lansky was to me far more interresting then both Siegel or Luciano. David Mamet is a great writer, but his script here just isn't that good. A few simple details were changed and the editing isn't all that good either. They should have told the audience which period we were looking at during certain times of Lanskys life. The movie begins around 1972 in Israel then we go back to the early 1900's in Russia and then to like 1912 in Manhattan, but you don't see that. You also don't hear about the 400$ million dollars that Lansky had in Sviss banks at the time of his death which is a fact by now. His Florida operations were also very known and he was the one who gave orders to both Santo Trafficante Jnr. and Carlos Marcello. Despite the lack of storytelling the acting is great. Richard Dreyfuss is extremely good as Lansky and Perlich also, but Roberts and LaPaglia somehow didn't fit in there. I give this movie *1/2 stars out of four.
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The Jewish Don
bkoganbing23 November 2017
Certain friendships play a part in history in that without the relationship history itself might have been different. FDR and Winston Churchill for example. It works negatively too, just look at Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy.

In gangland lore and this was by no means easy in those clannish days the friendship of Italian Charles Luciano with Jewish Meyer Lansky. Crossing ethnic and religious lines was by no means easy then, but these two formed the national syndicate of organized crime that still is in operation.

Richard Dreyfuss and Anthony LaPaglia play the mature Lansky and Luciano characters. Eric Roberts is Ben Siegel otherwise known to those who didn't know him as Bugsy. You've seen parts of the story in Mobsters from Luciano's point of view and in Warren Beatty's film Bugsy. In Lansky the same story is now told from Meyer's point of view. The kid who saw pogroms in Poland and who fought with Ben Siegel's help on New York's mean streets to stay alive.

The main component of the Lansky Legend is that the man was never convicted of a major crime. As Dreyfuss says you keep it all in your head and write nothing down. You do have to have prodigious memory to do that and apparently Lansky did.

The story is told in flashback with an aging Dreyfuss in Israel hoping to settle there the rest of his days exercising the law of return. Politics intervened and he couldn't do it. He has some interesting explanations why.

It ain't exactly history but pretty close. These people fascinate us and will do so for the next century.
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Not Quite A Hagiography, But...
bigverybadtom5 February 2017
I was expecting a documentary about Meyer Lansky, or at least an entertaining movie. I got neither.

It starts out with Lansky as an old man in Israel, hoping that nation would take him in. Then it shows his childhood, his family fleeing anti-Semitic persecution. The rest is basically him associating and interacting with mobsters.

Lansky was an important figure in the Mafia, being the financial genius who helped make it the big organization it became. But the movie makes him look more like an innocent victim of circumstance than one who deliberately chose the dark path. Plenty of other Jews faced persecution as well, but they did not become criminals.

But the movie should have included at least the most telling aspects of his life-he died not having much money, and his children were not proud of him.
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Bad Flick
deemo3115 January 2005
There are a lot of truly great actors in this movie. Illeana Douglas. Max Perlich. Dreyfus. Eric Roberts. Lots of them. But the dialogue in this movie is horrible. The acting is stilted because of that. And the story is just not believable. It almost seems as if the writers tried to grasp onto the "mob" madness and cut and pasted other stories to come up with this one. It is not believable. Meyer Lansky was a gangster. This movie portrays him as some kind of innocent victim of circumstance. Simply untrue. He was not a victim. When you see this film, you get the impression that he was somehow compromised by the government because he was a Jew. A real look into who he was will tell a different story. And this is not it.
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That was Mamet? He dropped the ball.
Nozz7 August 2001
So Mamet wrote the script? I didn't notice. I was distracted by seeing my former mayor (of Herzliya, Israel) Eli Landau listed as one of the authors of the book. Some people consider him a bit of a hoodlum himself.

Anyway, lore has it that Lansky never got involved in the actual rough stuff. In the movie we see him along for the ride once or twice, but basically he's a pencil-pusher so he's more boring than your average movie gangster. The conflict that we do find him involved in personally is his battle to take advantage of the Law of Return in order to stay in Israel. Unfortunately, though it provides the framework for the film, that conflict is underexploited for drama. Basically, we see Lansky sitting there as his lawyer explains things. There could have been other characters brought in to represent the other side for some real interpersonal confrontations.

Part of the Israeli atmosphere, by the way, consists of continual playing of a variation on the song "Hayu Leilot" ("There Once Were Nights"), by Yaakov Orland and Mordechai Zeira. The song is not mentioned in the credits. Somebody oughta sue.
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You can't go wrong with gangsters and serial killers!
Peter Hayes14 October 2004
Life and times of a key - but low key - character from the old-time Mob.

Let us start with a morality play about Hollywood and the subjects it deems worthy of its lens. Few presidents get their own film and even when they do (Nixon, for example) audiences stay away.

However the mob get the full-on treatment from Capone to Gotti there's a film (or more than one) in all of them! Yep, they are the Americans that really matter!

The problem with Lansky is that he was certainly there and in the midst of it, but only in the sense of being around. He held the "stupidity" together allowing some money earning to take place rather than one long round of gang warfare.

The choice of Lansky - as the central character is only about one thing: The others have been done. We are near the bottom of the barrel so we will have to make do with this slow speaking and low lying non-Italian!

Eric Roberts is one of my favourite actors. He is in a lot of rubbish, but he is often the best thing in it. Here he has a real role (Bugsy Siegel - no less) and really gives it his all. The guy took a wrong turning (or maybe had no lucky break), or then again maybe Dreyfuss (Lansky) took it all?

(When has a short bland guy - Dreyfuss - been cast in the lead of so many big movies without being any kind of box office draw? The rubber shark was the big star of Jaws - the audience would have cheered if he had been turned in to lunch!)

I feel a cheat reviewer because the real life of Lansky is filed under "don't know - don't care." Well beyond the background knowledge of few books and TV documentaries.

His life limped along and although pursued by law-and-order they didn't really have it in for him. There was never any big bang climax in his life and all we have as a climax here is more cod philosophy and accusations that you can buy or not buy.

I can't buy anything he says, because he was a professional liar. For me buying the word of a professional liar would rather be like buying a hair restorer from a bald headed guy!
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One of my Favorite Films but I wanted it to be longer.
rikbloom-115-12780024 September 2014
When I first heard HBO was putting out a film on the life of Myer Lansky starring Richard Dreyfuss, who I really admire, my initial reaction was can he pull this off? I totally underestimated his abilityas an actor. Part of my thinking was within the look-a-like department.But with Ricard Drefyuss, along with Joshua Praw and Ryan Merriman (who both play the younger Lansky) I felt that director John McNaughton,along with Richard Dreyfus' ability to clone the movements and essential dramatic aspect, for his portrayal of Myer Lansky made this film work for me. With Anthony LaPaglia (as Charles "Lucky "Luciano),and the incomparable Eric Roberts (as Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel), as the frosting on the cake. While I really admired Warren Beatty's version of Siegel (Bugsy 1991) Robert's performance will grow on you in a different positive way. The fact that Myer Lansky outlived all of his contemporaries, without ever getting convicted of a crime, is an amazing thing in of itself. His ability to constantly evade, truth in life, was enough to get me interested in his story, along with the fact that I had read the books by Uri Dan and Dennis Eisenberg piqued my interest even further. Some have said the screen writers miss a lot the factual points of Myer Lansky's life, but how can we truly argue this point, when we have no concrete idea of what these points were? I watched the original airing of Lansky on February 27th, 1999 on HBO. I do not take to a lot of movies right away but the more I watched "Lansky" the more it grew on me. I now consider it one of my favorite films. On the negative side I wish the film could have been much longer, with more dramatic detail (whether these details were true or not) While the film does show Lansky's initial meeting with Anna Citron, the film does not extrapolate on her eventual outcome. Another thing to consider is if dramatic films covered all the absolute truths,they would lose some of their entertainment value (for me) I have documentaries for that area. The cinematography, along with the orchestral soundtrack, along with the popular hits of that time period are also superb." Lansky" also does a credible job of capturing the period settings (e.g. turn of the century lower east side) I highly recommend the film "Lansky"
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The Ultimate Movie Review! - - @tss5078
Tss507817 August 2014
For nearly six decades, Meyer Lansky was the brains behind the mafia, and is credited for their rise to power in Las Vegas. While being one of the more interesting criminals to ever live, his role was mainly behind the scenes and the film about his life turned out to be much less interesting than the man himself. Meyer Lansky (Richard Dreyfuss) was a Europen Jew, who fled to America in the early 20th century. Living on the streets of New York, he quickly fell in with the wrong people and started laundering money and bootlegging alcohol for some of New York's biggest gangsters. Lansky along with Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel, formed one of the most profitable organizations in the history of the Mob, and are credited as the first group to officially be refereed to as organized crime. I've always loved mafia movies and did genuinely want to learn more about Meyer Lansky, but the truth is, what he did really wasn't that interesting. He wasn't a boss, he wasn't a hit-man, he was basically an accountant, trying to make money for all kinds of nasty people. The film was basically a behind the scenes look at the mob and I found it to be very long and boring. Reclusive veteran, Richard Dreyfuss, takes on the role of Lansky and fits the character like a glove. Dreyfuss even mirrored Lansky's mannerisms and was really very good. From an artistic stand point, Lansky was worth watching, as Dreyfuss wasn't the only one to turn in a powerhouse performance. I went into this film looking for an intense, fast-paced thriller, but what I got was more like some documentary on the mob, that put me to sleep. Everything was as it should be for an epic drama, but the truth is, the man they chose to feature, just wasn't the type of guy that needed to have a film made about his life.
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