Bugsy – Unrated Extended Cut (DVD-Video)
B- Sound: B- Extras: B- Film: B+
winning the 1981 Best Director Oscar for his Reds (1981, reviewed elsewhere on this site), it's been mostly all
downhill for Warren Beatty. His post-Reds
resume is often downright embarrassing with such turkeys as Ishtar, Dick Tracy, Love Affair,
Bulworth and Town & Country. However, the one bright spot in
Beatty's career during the last 25 years is 1991's Bugsy, a compelling character study of the Jewish-American
gangster whose entrepreneurial idea helped transform a desert ghost town
called Las Vegas into the mecca it is today.
for 10 Academy Awards, but winning only two (Best Art Direction and Best
Costume Design), Bugsy is a
first-rate production from top to bottom, but is probably best remembered
for being the film where legendary Hollywood lothario and confirmed
bachelor Beatty met and fell in love with his soon-to-be wife and mother
of his children, Annette Bening.
has never been more electrifying on screen than he is as Benjamin
"Bugsy" Siegel, a volatile, charismatic gangster suffering
some sort of manic psychosis who, apparently, shared some of the same
vain, impractical and womanizing ways as the actor playing him.
a racketeer who was part of the criminal syndicate headed by
Charlie "Lucky" Luciano and Meyer Lansky (played here by Ben
Kingsley). The notorious, though less-polished Mickey Cohen (Harvey
Keitel) also became a close associate of Siegel's during his years in
Siegel probably would have liked everything about this highly stylized
movie aside from its title. He absolutely detested the nickname
"Bugsy" and anybody who called him that to his face risked either a
bad beating or death. But the nickname stuck because everyone thought
Siegel was, as his people would say, meshuggah.
by James Toback and directed by Barry Levinson, this gorgeously
produced film focuses on Siegel's later years in 1940s Hollywood,
where he became obsessively smitten with actress Virginia Hill
(Bening) and cajoled his mob partners into financing his dream of
building a gambling casino/resort called the Flamingo (which was Siegel's
nickname for Hill) in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Bugsy is said to be "highly
fictionalized," and I don't know enough about the real Siegel to know how
much of the film is true and how much is fiction, but Toback and
Levinson paint a fascinating portrait of him as a walking dichotomy.
On one hand, he's a murderous thug prone to violence and volcanic
outbursts of temper, but on the other hand, practices improving his
elocution, and is patriotic enough to devise a cockamamie plan
to assassinate Mussolini by himself. And despite doing his fair
share of maiming, killing and humiliating, his favorite motto is
"Everybody deserves a fresh start once in a while." A lot of
dark humor comes from such contradictions and violent mood
also depicts him as a visionary, who was single-handedly responsible
for planting the seeds for what is now Las Vegas, one of the mob's all-time
biggest sources of income. But it would prove to be a
posthumous triumph for Siegel. The only thing that keeps getting in
the way of his accomplishment is the fact that that he was a career
criminal and killer. But contradiction and obsession are
what the film and the character are all about.
Bugsy only falters at the climax,
becoming too romanticized as it pushes too hard to convince us that
Hill really did love Siegel, when her actions clearly contributed to his
two-disc extended cut of Bugsy runs
149 minutes with 15 minutes of footage added back into the film.
Especially effective is a sequence deleted from the theatrical cut where Siegel
comes close to committing suicide after murdering an old friend
turned stool pigeon (Elliott Gould). The filmmakers felt the
near suicide would make Siegel too sympathetic, but the scene nicely
demonstrates the character's impulsiveness.
extended cut is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with English 5.1
Dolby Digital sound. The picture is
decent for the format, while the sound was originally theatrical Dolby SR;
their advanced analog Spectral Recording system that was the hottest thing
before digital broke out. It makes for a
good master to remix from, which is what happened here for the most part.
In addition to the longer cut on disc one, the special features on the
second disc include two other deleted scenes and an all-new 90-plus minute
documentary featuring Beatty, Toback and Levinson sitting around a table
discussing all aspects of the film.
- Chuck O'Leary