Sunday, December 12, 2010
(December 1991, U.S.)
Whatever happened to director Barry Levinson? I don't mean that he's dead, or sick or he stopped working altogether. What I mean is there was a time when he was making successful, Oscar-worthy films almost one after the other. There was a time, like Spielberg, when you could count on repeatedly being blown away by films like GOOD MORNING VIETNAM (1987), RAIN MAN (1988), DISCLOSURE (1994) and SLEEPERS (1996). Somewhere along the way, though, the films got smaller and, in my opinion, far less impressive. Perhaps that's just what comes with getting older at your craft.
In 1991, BUGSY solidified Levinson as a major directing force and it also brought back Warren Beatty after what I consider to be a major debacle with his version of DICK TRACY (1990) only a year and a half earlier (man, that movie SUCKED!). This is a gangster film with much of the same colorful and and music-scoring style that we'd seen some years before in THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987). BUSGY is less about violence, though, and more about attitute, dialogue and the dream of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel to create the city in the middle of the Nevada desert that would one day become the great city of Las Vegas. Warren Beatty and Annette Bening feed off of each other's persona so perfectly in this film that it's no wonder they would inevitably end up together in real life. Bening as Virginia Hill is an ultra-sexy mob moll with a brain and the capacity for business and management that is not to be found in other gangster films. And you know what they say; behind every great man is woman telling him what to do to be that great man...I think.
Let me digress for a moment on the subject of Las Vegas - before seeing BUGSY or ever having heard of gangster Ben Siegel, I had seen THE GODFATHER-PART II many times. Would you believe that I actual thought, for a fact, that there had been a real man named Moe Green who had actually invented the city of Las Vegas, just like Lee Strasberg describes in the film? Talk about putting too much faith in what you hear in the movies! But then again, haven't we learned much of what we know about gangsters and the Mafia from the movies, be they totally accurate or not?
Favorite line of dialogue:
Virginia Hill: "Were you under the impression that I was a virgin?"
Ben Siegel: "No, no, no, I just thought maybe there was somebody you HADN'T fucked."