The true story of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, a mobster
who laid the foundations for the city of Las Vegas.
Directed by Barry Levinson
Written by James Toback
Starring Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Ben Kingsley,
Harvey Keitel, Joe Mantegna, Elliott Gould, Bill Graham,
Lewis Van Bergen, Richard C. Sarafian, Bebe Neuwirth
Oscar Wins - Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Warren Beatty),
Best Supporting Actor (Ben Kingsley), Best Supporting Actor (Harvey Keitel), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay,
Best Cinematography, Best Original Score (Ennio Morricone)
Is there any city on earth more connected to crime, corruption, and broken dreams than Las Vegas? That odd little oasis in the Nevada desert symbolizes the best and worst of America, and it all began with an ambitious gangster named Ben Siegel, but everyone just called him Bugsy. Never to his face, of course, or he'd kick the shit out of them. But Bugsy, despite a high-ranking position in the mob, more money than he could count, and the love of two gorgeous women, had a dream. A dream of a legitimate gambling business in the desert outside of a shitty little town called Las Vegas. Of course, Bugsy didn't live to see his dream realized, as his project got him in deep debt with his mob friends, who soon saw him as an idealistic liability and killed him. This fairly uneven but always entertaining Barry Levinson biopic is his story.
Warren Beatty excels as Bugsy Siegel, delivering a strong performance of a man you'd never think was a murdering gangster. But during those freakout scenes, Beatty brings it just as strong. This is the film where he fell in love with and married Annette Bening, who goes toe to toe with Beatty as Bugsy's unhinged love interest Virginia Hill. It was also pretty awesome to see Ben Kingsley as Meyer Lansky and Harvey Keitel as Mickey fucking Cohen, both of whom would earn Oscar nominations for their performances (as did Beatty). I'm a sucker for gangster biopics anyway, and while Bugsy does have a bit of a focus problem, it's never an issue for me.
As a genre, biopics have the unique issue of having to condense a human being's entire life into, at the most, three hours, and it's often less than that. Some biopics, like The Disaster Artist or The Man Who Invented Christmas, narrow the focus onto one significant event in the subject's life. Others, like The Irishman or Bohemian Rhapsody, have a lot of story to tell, and some things either fall through the cracks or get too much attention. In Bugsy, I think his relationship with Virginia was far less interesting than his relationship with the mob and how it funded the creation of Vegas. Having said that, I do think Bugsy was a solid film.