Barry Levinson’s good-looking gangster pic may be nowhere near GoodFellas-calibre mob drama, but it manages to convey the menace and glamour of real-life west coast hood Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Seigel (Warren Beatty) with evocative style. Seigel was a charming visionary, sent by the Mob to open a Californian branch of the business during the ’30s. But rather than bring home the bacon, he fell for hard-nosed starlet Virginia Hill (Annette Bening) and recklessly ‘invested’ mafia money in his dreams of making a small desert town called Las Vegas into a gambling mecca.
Though Bugsy shows how Seigel ultimately paid for his dishonesty, this is less a tale of organised crime, more a study of one man’s magnificent obsession. Bening and Warren got together while filming and they create palpable onscreen heat, while the Oscar-winning costumes and art direction provide a glossy sense of time and place.