Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA, 1991. TriStar Pictures, Mulholland Productions, Baltimore Pictures. Screenplay by James Toback. Cinematography by Allen Daviau. Produced by Warren Beatty, Mark Johnson, Barry Levinson. Music by Ennio Morricone. Production Design by Dennis Gassner. Costume Design by Albert Wolsky. Film Editing by Stu Linder, Christopher Holmes.
Overrated gangster movie tells the true story of Benjamin Siegel (Warren Beatty) and his dream to build Las Vegas. Beatty, after years of being criticized for his placid, overly subtle performances, decided that this project was the perfect vehicle to show off a little more energy, and that he does. His Siegel is a hot stovepipe of temper tantrums and mood swings, perfectly balanced against Annette Bening‘s sexy, cool and crisp gangster moll/struggling starlet.
The only time the film ever really feels alive is when these two are sparring together on screen, and their dialogue with each other is the best the film has to offer (‘Dialogue is cheap in Hollywood, Ben…why don’t you go outside and jerk yourself a soda?’) The rest of the time it centres around Siegel’s business dealings with Meyer Lansky (Ben Kingsley), Mickey Cohen (Harvey Keitel) and a whole bunch of other indistinguishable business suits with matching hats and tough-guy accents, and little of it is not particularly interesting.
Its highest praise, aside from the acting of the two leads, goes to Barry Levinson’s pristine recreation of the 1940s, complete with dreamy photography by Allen Daviau and letter-perfect set design and costuming. Other than that, it’s an action movie without a single bit of action, and very little character development to make up for that.
Academy Awards: Best Art Direction; Best Costume Design
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Warren Beatty); Best Supporting Actor (Harvey Keitel); Best Supporting Actor (Ben Kingsley); Best Director (Barry Levinson); Best Original Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Original Score
Berlin Film Festival: In Competition
Golden Globe Awards: Best Picture-Drama
Nominations: Best Actor-Drama (Warren Beatty); Best Actress-Drama (Annette Bening); Best Supporting Actor (Harvey Keitel); Best Supporting Actor (Ben Kingsley); Best Director (Barry Levinson); Best Screenplay; Best Original Score