Bugsy

1991

Bugsy

Critics Consensus

Stylishly scattered, Bugsy offers cinematic homage to the infamous underworld legend, chiefly through a magnetic performance from Warren Beatty in the title role.

85%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 59

69%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 10,197
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Bugsy Photos

Movie Info

Bugsy is a character study of mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel wrapped up in a gangster movie. Siegel (Warren Beatty in a flashy performance) arrives in California in the Forties, assigned to oversee the L.A. rackets. He is quickly seduced by both the glamour of Hollywood and actress Virginia Hill (Annette Bening), whom he romances despite being unable to leave his wife and children. Siegel soon has a vision to transform a barren stretch of Nevada desert into an oasis of gambling and entertainment -- the seeds from which Las Vegas was sown. Funded by his gangster bosses, including Meyer Lansky (Ben Kingsley), the flamboyant Siegel sees his budget soar past its original $6 million, a problem compounded by the fact that Virginia has embezzled $2 million of it. In trouble with his superiors, Siegel flies back to L.A. to face the music, telling Virginia to keep the money. He would not live to see his dream of Las Vegas come true. The film is fast-paced and well-directed by Barry Levinson, with an intelligent script by James Toback and excellent support from Kingsley and Harvey Keitel as gangster Mickey Cohen.

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Cast

Warren Beatty
as Ben Siegel
Annette Bening
as Virginia Hill
Harvey Keitel
as Mickey Cohen
Ben Kingsley
as Meyer Lansky
Elliott Gould
as Harry Greenberg
Joe Mantegna
as George Raft
Bebe Neuwirth
as Countess di Frasso
Wendy Phillips
as Esta Siegel
Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi
as Count di Frasso
Stefanie Mason
as Millicent Siegel
Kimberly McCullough
as Barbara Siegel
Andy Romano
as Del Webb
Robert Beltran
as Alejandro
Bill Graham
as Charlie Luciano
Lewis Van Bergen
as Joey Adonis
James Toback
as Gus Greenbaum
Don Carrara
as Vito Genovese
Albina Boccicchio
as Ciro's Singer
Carmine Caridi
as Frank Costello
Don Calfa
as Louie Dragna
Bryan Smith
as Chick Hill
Ray McKinnon
as David Hinton
Eric Christmas
as Ronald the Butler
Joe Baker
as Lawrence Tibbett
John C. Moskoff
as Sulka's Salesman
Ralph Tabakin
as Elevator Operator
Debrah Farentino
as Girl in Elevator
John Moskoff
as Sulka's Salesman
Anthony Russell
as Jerry the Bookie
Wendie Malick
as Woman on Train
DeVera Marcus
as Fan at Train Station
Ksenia Prohaska
as Marlene Dietrich
Peter Giuliano
as `Manpower' Assistant Director
Paul Austin Kelly
as `Manpower' Maitre d'
Michael Kenner
as `Manpower' Clapper Boy
Bruce E. Morrow
as District Attorney McWilde
Clive Rosengren
as Deputy District Attorney Hartman
Gary McGurk
as Tony the Waiter
Bruce Morrow
as District Attorney McWilde
Gerard Joseph McKenna
as Ciro's Photographer
Paul Roache
as Taxi Driver
Tommy Townsend
as Federal Marshal
Steven D. Maines
as Federal Marshal
Traci Lind
as Natalie St. Clair
David H. Hebble
as Cadillac Driver
Michael Sollenberger
as Bond Rally Speaker
Jamie Angell
as Courthouse Guard
Julie Christensen
as Ciro's Singer
Susan Rumor
as Ciro's Singer
Lloyd Baskin
as Ciro's Singer
Hal Melia
as Ciro's Singer
Fred Lehto
as Ciro's Singer
Kal David
as Ciro's Singer
Albina Bocchicchio
as Ciro's Singer
Cathleen Crone
as Ciro's Singer
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News & Interviews for Bugsy

Critic Reviews for Bugsy

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (16)

  • From James Toback's crackling script to Warren Beatty's electric performance as gangster Ben Siegel, Bugsy is so engrossing that you feel uncharitable mentioning that while splendid in individual scenes, Barry Levinson's movie lacks propulsion.

    Oct 29, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • What finally distinguishes Bugsy from other mob movies is its ever-present sense of the absurd.

    Oct 29, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Insouciant and flashy, co-producer Beatty is at his best when evoking the narcissistic, show-business side of Siegel.

    Oct 29, 2014 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • A great deal of the fun of watching this very assured film is seeing with what energetic panache the actor takes on the mantle of the mobster J. Edgar Hoover once called "the most dangerous man in America."

    Oct 29, 2014 | Full Review…
  • The picture belongs, in every sense of the word, to Beatty.

    Oct 29, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Most actors give more contained performances as they get older or else they risk self-parody. Beatty, who has always seemed larger than life, gets even larger with age -- and on him it looks good.

    Oct 29, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Bugsy

  • Sep 01, 2014
    Finally, Clyde Barrow is moving up in the crime business, and someone takes a gangster named Bugsy seriously, instead of just making some fluffy musical number like that silly little sweetheart Alan Parker did. I was attempting to be sarcastic, but it's hard to be that effective when a few months before this film out, Parker's latest heavy drama was "The Commitments", which was still something of a musical comedy. Well, it was still weightier than 1976's "Bugsy Malone", although, honestly, one has to give the guy who proceeded to make "Midnight Express" credit for realization that it would be hard to make a gangster drama that can be taken seriously when the focus is named Bugsy. Hey, shortly after 1990, they had to work really hard to take this film seriously in order to make up for that blasted "The Godfather: Part III". ...Okay, fine, I admit that I really, really dug "The Godfather: Part III", and the guys who made this film must have dug it, too, because if they were trying to make a more serious gangster drama to compensate, then they must not have been trying too hard if they got Warren Beatty to lead, like, right after he did "Dick Tracy". I'm sure Beatty was really glad to get the gig, because it lead to him meeting the love of his life... in this film, not "Dick Tracy", because even though Madonna has held up way better than Annette Bening (So pretty, and now, not so much), Beatty must have looked at Sean Penn and realized how dangerous marrying Madonna can be to a film career, unlike poor old Guy Ritchie. I guess this film made everyone happy, because even though it isn't quite "The Godfather: Part III", it's still pretty rewarding stuff, for all its shortcomings, including developmental ones. Deeply focused on Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's rise and eventual downfall in organized crime, this film offers no real background development on Siegel or his peers outside of the criminal underworld of the 1940s, and where it could have made up for that with gradual exposition, it tends to continue focusing on crime over genuine nuance, either underdoing or even abandoning certain potentially important dramatic elements to supplement characterization that is already way too thin for its own good, especially within the lead. Siegel is an interesting and extremely well-portrayed role, but outside of showcasing his moments of overt eccentricity, all you can get out of him is that he is a self-centered man of sleaze and crime who could have easily been humanized without being glorified, but ends up being too unlikable to be all that compelling of a lead without Warren Beatty's charisma, as surely as he is focused upon too deeply to begin with. By that, I mean that the supporting roles are underexplored, with the Virginia Hill love interest not even being as evenly used and thoroughly fleshed out as she really should be, thus, a lot of Siegel's peers feel like prominent devices to be picked up and dropped while the storytellers juggle a number of segments and narrative layers which jar about to a convoluted point. There's simply too much going on, and not enough at the same time, because as reasonable as a runtime of around two hours and quarter seems to be, it ends up being achieved through a combination of over-exploring Siegel's criminal business and sleaziness, and underexploring, if not awkwardly rushing through the human dramatics and what have you in order to realize momentum. The film gradually gets messier with its structure, yet it never loses its predictability, because even though this film makes certain errors that other gangster films of its inspiration are usually careful to avoid, it is hopelessly conformist to the structure and subject matter handling of so many other crime dramas of its type, and that reflects the limitations of inspiration in this project. I gripe and complain, but inspiration is pretty prominent through and through, and the final product's reward value is firmly secured by what this drama does right, but the areas in which storytelling fumbles are glaring, undercooking a problematic lead and his leads with only so much substance to all of the convolutedly uneven and overblown layering to otherwise formulaic plotting. The film runs a very serious risk of falling deeply into underwhelmingness, but when I say that inspiration matches misguidance, I really do mean that this film does enough right to engross and reward much more often than not, and immerse as a period piece. "Criminal", if you will, as it is to say, I don't know if there's anything especially remarkable about the great Ennio Morricone's original score, thus, when timely tunes come into play, that's when the soundtrack really comes to life, with poppy, swinging and, in some cases, noirish jazz pieces that are quality by their own right, and almost as effective in selling the era of this glamorous period drama as Leslie McDonald's art direction, which celebrates distinguished production designs by Dennis Gassner and costume designs by Albert Wolsky in order to bring 1940s Los Angeles and Las Vegas to life lavishly. The sheer design of the film itself is as gorgeous as it is convincing, but Allen Daviau ices the cake, with cinematography whose crisply dreamy lighting is controlled enough to never be overwrought, yet prominent enough to be consistently handsome, and sometimes breathtaking as the pinnacle of style which, quite frankly, is more realized than the substance. Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, as a vain, womanizing and dangerous, maybe even insane mobster, was a dirtbag, and it would take a lot of work to sell him and his story as compelling, though not as much as you might think, for a great deal of immediate intrigue is established through a story concept that offers extensive insight into the sophistication and brutality of organized crime in the 1940s, and into the juicy personal life of an interesting, if problematic figure, and is brought to life in a number of areas by the very man who betrays the potential in possibly an equal number of areas: James Toback. Toback's highly formulaic approach to worthy subject matter is among the most recurrent and least problematic issues of a script which gets more and more convoluted with its overblown and uneven narrative, and never gets very deep with its exposition, but there some solid highlights in the writing, which keeps consistent in a certain wit that goes a long way in livening things up, through snappy dialogue and memorably colorful set pieces, punctuated by some plot structuring and character drawing which is nuanced, but not really brought to life until the material of this intimate drama is sold by the performers. Few characters are explored at length, and hardly any of them, including Siegel, are truly fleshed out, but most every member of a respectable cast delivers on selling his or her role, with a lovely Annette Bening all but stealing the show in her weighty, if thinly layered portrayal of a woman who frequently feels betrayed by a man of crime she loves, while Warren Beatty carries the show, with sparkling charisma and nuance so much more realized than it is in the script that Beatty becomes Siegel, and makes him a worthy lead through powerful layers. Beatty is a borderline powerhouse, and no matter how unlikable his character is on people, it's hard to not be compelled by Beatty's portrayal of the Siegel, and yet, the performances, style and writing highlights cannot truly save this drama as rewarding, not without inspiration to Barry Levinson's direction, and sure enough, what offscreen inspiration there is stands firm within Levinson's tightly paced storytelling, which is always very entertaining, with more controlled moments whose tension and resonance define impressive heights in this film. There is so much misguidance, but about as much, if not more inspiration, and although this film is not nearly what it could have been, there is enough color and realization on and off of the screen to drive the final product as a rewarding watch for the patient. When the deal is done, a lack of background development is by no means justified by thin characterization, even for a lead who is too problematic to be especially compelling in a sloppily uneven, convolutedly busy and deeply formulaic narrative, which could have meant underwhelmingness that is almost miraculously kept far at bay, by the groovy soundtrack, lavish art direction, gorgeous cinematography, clever writing highlights, strong performances - the strongest of which being by Warren Beatty - and inspired direction which save Barry Levinson's "Bugsy" as a rewardingly entertaining and generally effective portrayal of the life and crime of Bugsy Siegel. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Dec 19, 2011
    A true American classic. A masterpiece, plain and simple. One of the most entertaining and exhilerating gangster films ever made. A bold, stylish and remarkable portrait of a criminal. Director, Barry Levinson crafts an astonshing piece of work that will be remembered for years. It`s slick, thrilling, funny and wildly entertaining. A spectacular movie. A tremendouse all-star cast. Warren Betty is absolutely incrediable, he gives one of the greatest performances of his career, he gives a harsh, violent, charming and senational prtrayel. Annette Bening is wonderful. Bening and Betty set the screen ablaze with their thrilling chemistry. Ben Kingsley is brilliant. Harvey Keitel is excellent. Joe Mantegna is terrific.
    Al S Super Reviewer
  • Oct 15, 2010
    Warren Beatty gives the finest and most forceful performance of his career as Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, the legendary psychotic playboy gangster who help build Las Vegas. He was a brilliant visionary who carved Las Vegas out of the dry Nevada desert, and built the fabled Flamingo hotel, and later the gambling mecca. Bugsy is the quintessential homicidal sociopath, a man who as charming, manipulative and successful as he is delusional and very dangerous. It will be his over-powering narcissism that ultimately will bring him down, and seal his fate. He has a tempestuous love-hate relationship with Hollywood actress Virginia Hill, who been around the block more than once, she is beautifully played by Beatty's real-life wife Annette Benning. Their scenes together have a real sizzling chemistry. Magnificent direction by Barry Levinson with stunning supporting performances by Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley, Elliott Gould, Joe Mantegna, Bebe Neuwirth and Wendy Phillips. Amazing cinematography by Allen Daviau and a solid score by Ennio Morricone. Brilliant production design by Dennis Gassner. A gangster epic that is absorbing, gritty and totally engrossing. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. Highly Recommended.
    Danny R Super Reviewer
  • Feb 12, 2010
    Bugsy is a character study of mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel wrapped up in a gangster movie. Siegel (Warren Beatty in a flashy performance) arrives in California in the Forties, assigned to oversee the L.A. rackets. He is quickly seduced by both the glamour of Hollywood and actress Virginia Hill (Annette Bening), whom he romances despite being unable to leave his wife and children. Siegel soon has a vision to transform a barren stretch of Nevada desert into an oasis of gambling and entertainment -- the seeds from which Las Vegas was sown. Funded by his gangster bosses, including Meyer Lansky (Ben Kingsley), the flamboyant Siegel sees his budget soar past its original $6 million, a problem compounded by the fact that Virginia has embezzled $2 million of it. In trouble with his superiors, Siegel flies back to L.A. to face the music, telling Virginia to keep the money. He would not live to see his dream of Las Vegas come true. The film is fast-paced and well-directed by Barry Levinson, with an intelligent script by James Toback and excellent support from Kingsley and Harvey Keitel as gangster Mickey Cohen.
    Martin D Super Reviewer

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