New York Jewish gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (Warren Beatty) has a dream—or is it a mirage?—of a casino named the Flamingo rising out of the Nevada desert. To the tune of clicking dice and the sussurant shuffle of bills, Siegel’s visionary business plan is bankrolled by some impressively deep pockets: Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano. What Siegel doesn’t gamble on are construction delays or falling in love, and he falls hard for actress Virginia Hill (played to perfection by Beatty’s future wife Annette Bening). Life is complicated, with Siegel’s good Jewish wife and two daughters back home, pesky two-bit crooks who don’t pay up and his New York crime family breathing down his neck. Warren Beatty’s tour de force performance as the sexy, psychotic Siegel is one of many great turns in this cinematic success (nominated for 10 Academy Awards) by director Barry Levinson, who also mined the American Jewish experience in Avalon and Liberty Heights. The all-star cast includes Harvey Keitel, Bill Graham, Elliott Gould, Joe Mantegna and Ben Kingsley. Written by veteran screenwriter James Toback, the script crackles with New York vernacular and the pop-pop of pistols, enhanced by an exquisite score by Ennio Morricone. Gangsters have rarely looked and sounded so good, or so Jewish.
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