Hollywood is fascinated with gangsters. It always has been. Last year it was Goodfellas. This year, Bugsy. Perhaps they are wearing thin on me but, how may leading characters can we stomach who get angry, bang tables, beat up friends and generally do as they please, disregarding everyone else including their purported friends and sworn loyalists.
Warren Beatty plays Bugsy Segal as if Segal was a bug who had ingested a pesticide and was running in circles with a short circuited nervous system. Some of his actual running is so similar to Heaven Can Wait, it is laughable when it should be serious.
Bugsy is given credit in the film as the founder of LasVegas as a gambling oasis where mob money could be legitimized. The scene where he finds the right location for his Flamingo Hotel is played as if it were Brigham Young discovering his promised land.
Bugsy is not without merit, however; the sets, cars and music of the 40s draw the audience into the era. Ben Kingsley is the strong, determined Meyer Lansky and gives a very effective performance. Elliott Gould as Harry Greenberg is very believable as a dimwitted pawn of a gangster. Annette Bening is the motivation for Bugsy's downfall. She can carry any part and particularly this one in which she easily seduces men at will. Virginia Hill (Bening) is nicknamed Flamingo, hence The Flamingo Hotel in Vegas is named for her.
In the final analysis, as in KingKong, it was beauty that killed Bugsy. It was Beatty's performance that killed this film.