Sent by Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano to take care of West Coast business, the womanising Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel (Beatty) settles down to a life of Hollywood glitz. His fraught affair with starlet Virginia Hill (Bening), which places great strain on Siegel's otherwise happy marriage, is only one of the psychopathically violent mobster's obsessions. For he dreams, too, of building a casino-hotel in Las Vegas. But Bugsy's twin passions put him at risk: his extravagance with Mob money and his high profile turn the crime barons against him... One can, of course, remain sceptical about the film's unabashedly romantic portrait of Siegel (though Beatty is truly unsettling when called on to come up with murderous rage), but its virtues are many: Bugsy's risible efforts at self-improvement through language; a farcical tour de force where he juggles a daughter's birthday meal, phone calls from Virginia and a business meeting; mad plans to kill Mussolini; brutal humiliations meted out to disloyal wiseguys. With a sparklingly witty script (James Toback), classy direction and terrific performances all round, Beatty's return to the fray is his best movie since McCabe and Mrs Miller.
Cast and crew