Warren Beatty and Annette Bening star in the incredible true story of Benjamin Bugsy Siegel, the playboy gangster who betrayed the Mob for love. A cold-blooded killer who dreamed of Hollywood stardom, a crazed patriot who plotted against Mussolini, and the brilliant visionary who carved Las Vegas out of the dry Nevada desert, Bugsy had it all. Until he fell for the one woman who wanted more. A critical masterpiece, BUGSY is a remarkable collaboration of Hollywood's best: director Barry Levinson, screenwriter James Toback, and an all-star supporting cast that includes Harvey Keitel, Oscar(r)-winner Ben Kingsley (Best Actor, Gandhi,1982), Joe Mantegna, and Elliott Gould. But at the center of itall is the white-hot romance between Bugsy and the insatiable starlet, Virginia Hill.
Bugsy represents an almost miraculous combination of director, writer, and star on a project that represents a career highlight for everyone involved. It's one of the best American gangster movies ever made--as good in its own way as any of the Godfather films--and it's impossible to imagine anyone better than Beatty in the movie's flashy title role. As notorious mobster and Las Vegas visionary "Bugsy" Siegel, Beatty is perfectly cast as a man whose dreams are greater than his ability to realize them--or at least, greater than his ability to stay alive while making those dreams come true. With a glamorous Hollywood mistress (Annette Bening) who shares Bugsy's dream while pursuing her own upwardly mobile agenda, Bugsy seems oblivious to threats when he begins to spend too much of the mob's money on the creation of the Flamingo casino. Meyer Lansky (Ben Kingsley) and Mickey Cohen (Harvey Keitel) will support Bugsy's wild ambition to a point, after which all bets are off, and Bugsy's life hangs in the balance. From the obvious chemistry of Beatty and Bening (who met and later married off-screen) to the sumptuous reproduction of 1940s Hollywood, every detail in this movie feels impeccably right. Beatty is simply mesmerizing as the man who invented Las Vegas but never saw it thrive, moving from infectious idealism to brutal violence in the blink of an eye. Director Barry Levinson is also in peak form here, guiding the stylish story with a subtle balance of admiration and horror; we can catch Bugsy's Vegas fever and root for the gangster's success, but we know he'll get what he deserves. We might wish that Bugsy had lived to see his dream turn into a booming oasis, but the movie doesn't suggest that we should shed any tears. --Jeff Shannon
Bugsy: Extended Cut special features
Anyone who's heard how intense (or perhaps the word is "torturous") it can be to make a film with Warren Beatty will be captivated by the behind-the-scenes extras on the Bugsy: Extended Cut DVD. The highlight is the chat among screenwriter James Toback, director Barry Levinson, and star and co-producer Beatty on how the project and the final film came to be. Tellingly, Beatty is sitting quite apart from the other two, though they're in a semi-circular banquette at Perino's in Los Angeles.
The conversation starts out slowly, with Toback, a genial blowhard, talking about losing the original script, but it picks up steam when the topic turns to the casting of the excellent actors in the film, including Sir Ben Kingsley and Elliott Gould, who also participate. And of course the most interesting off-screen component of the project--Beatty meeting his future wife, costar Annette Bening--is given a fun spotlight in the film. Levinson remembers that after meeting Bening for the first time, Beatty called him enthusiastically saying, "She's great, I love her, I'm going to marry her" ("you know, just a throwaway line," Levinson says, laughing), and Toback and Levinson and Bening herself talk about the signs the two were slowly falling in love. It's as dishy as anything you're likely to see about the notoriously private Beatty, and well worth the investment.
Other extras include several deleted scenes that are now included in the film (and unlike many other "extended cut" releases, actually enhance the depth of the story). One is a harrowing scene in which Bugsy contemplates, and nearly commits, suicide, via Russian roulette. Another is an amusing screen test that Siegal takes, thinking his roguish charm will translate to the big screen. Though it takes Beatty's considerable talents to make that happen, the earnestness of Siegal's outsider character is touching in glimpses like this. --A.T. Hurley
Beyond Bugsy Stills from Bugsy (click for larger image)