BARRY LEVINSON’S BUGSY — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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The director’s cut of Barry Levinson’s brooding and stylish gangster epic Bugsy is sensational entertainment, made huge by a massive lead performance from Warren Beatty, fabulous production values, an all-star supporting cast, and a pungent and gritty screenplay by James Toback that peppered the proceedings with humor, heart, and an appropriate amount of violent confrontation. Released in theaters in 1991, the theatrical version excised 13 additional minutes which can be seen on the DVD, and sadly, the movie didn’t do as well as expected at the box office despite generally excellent reviews, but over time, this has solidified itself as one of the better offerings in this very crowded genre. Spanning the turbulent and erratic life of mobster Bugsy Siegel, Beatty’s larger than life performance as the titular hoodlum brought him a much deserved Oscar nomination, while future wife Annette Bening dropped a sensitive and stellar early star turn as Siegel’s love interest, Virginia Hill. Featured in the background were Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley, Elliot Gould, Joe Mantegna, Bill Graham, and Bebe Neuwirth, all knocking it out of the park, while master cinematographer Allen Daviau evoked old-school Hollywood with his burnished and elegantly composed photography. Ennio Morricone’s rich and full-bodied score only sweetens the deal. This is easily one of Levinson’s strongest overall films, and fully reminds that when he was firing on all cylinders, he was capable of smart and well-appointed films that knew how to balance commercial demands with artsier instincts.

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