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August 24, 2010

Bugsy (1991)
Director: Barry Levinson
Actors: Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Ben Kingsley

Beatty-300x200.jpg (300×200)

Synopsis: The life and death of legendary American gangster, Ben ‘Bugsy’ Siegel (Warren Beatty).

Review: Watching this movie again, I was struck by how much it acted as precursor to Martin Scorsese’s similarly themed biopic The Aviator. Both deal in a rather conventional,’iconic’ manner with great American cultural icons of the 20th Century – Bugsy Siegel and Howard Hughes – and it’s a particular indictment of Scorsese’s film because he was working with what was already a fairly meagre template as essayed in Levinson’s 1991 picture. Bugsy‘s prime failing is in Levinson’s inability to locate the narrative peaks and troughs needed to flesh out the rather bland and regulation ‘three-act’ trajectory of James Toback’s screenplay. Some of the better moments in the picture are overly reliant on the charms of Warren Beatty as Siegel, or in the lightly ironic domestic scenes that hint at Siegel’s jumbled lifestyle (he hosts his daughter’s birthday party and an important meeting of his ‘business associates’ in one frantic evening). Unfortunately, more clichéd scenes such as the moment where Siegel conceives of his Vegas vision in the desert, or when Bening’s moll finally comes good at the film’s climax as Siegel is fleeing by plane à la Casablanca – merely highlight the dearth of originality in this picture. (November 2006)

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