Barry Levinson's biopic dazzles with glitter but lacks gold. The film deals primarily with Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's obsessive quest to turn a Nevada desert wasteland into the American gambling mecca of Las Vegas. While this is an engaging enough subject, no attention is paid to Bugsy's New York background and rise through the gangland ranks, making his character interesting but ultimately one-dimensional. Within the film's narrow scope, compelling plot lines are drawn, including Bugsy's torrid romance with femme-fatale Hollywood starlet Virginia Hill (Annette Bening). However, the film drags on for over two hours, making the resolution more welcome than scintillating. The grit and darkness of the Godfather-style gangster flick is absent, replaced by Hollywood gloss. However, the direction is fairly plush and the gangster American Dream theme is fleshed out poignantly. Moreover, Warren Beatty gives an inspired performance in the title role and Harvey Keitel as Mickey Cohen and Ben Kingsley as Meyer Lansky give solid supporting performances. The end result is an entertaining film that works, but unfortunately its epic length is not matched by epic quality.
by Mike DiBella review