If you are into gambling and gangster movies, you are going to love Bugsy (1991). I have been quite passionate about going to Las Vegas every year and I always wanted to actually see how everything began. To an extent, this movie does just that. It acts as a window towards the romanticized version of how the infamous Bugsy Siegel, played by Warren Beatty, practically invented Las Vegas. The movie is far from being completely accurate, but large parts of its story were actually quite true. I enjoyed the movie because it showed me how one of my favorite locations in the world came to be, but it does have some off-putting elements.
First of all, I’m not sure Beatty was the best choice as Bugsy Siegel. He has always been an amazing actor, but I just don’t think he fits the bill. Siegel was a big time mobster sociopath, who was responsible for horrid crimes, including murder and rape. However, Beatty plays him as if he just had a bit of an anger issue. While it is true that the real mobster was a real charmer and was very charismatic, in the movie they take it too far by making him look like a misunderstood hero. Also, he yells way too much. But these are just about the only things I didn’t particularly enjoy about this movie.
The movie starts with Siegel travelling to Los Angeles to gain control of the local gambling scene, on the behalf of the New York mob. He manages to do so (while flipping out a few times and murdering a few people in the process) and also finds a romantic interest in Virginia Hill, a gorgeous but dangerous Hollywood starlet. The two engage in a fiery affair that will represent, at least in my opinion, one of the less interesting sides of the movie. A short time later, Bugsy goes to Nevada to check out a gambling joint and thinks up the concept of a hotel and casino somewhere in the desert there.
Armed with the simple fact that gambling was legal in Nevada, he convinced his mobster partners that the concept of Las Vegas would make them rich beyond their wildest dreams. However, he made a lot of mistakes along the way, including trusting Virginia with the accounts (from which she stole millions), and ended up being killed by his former mobster friends. Plenty more things happen along the way, but I’m going to let you see those for yourself.
For me, it was very interesting to see a man so closely connected to gambling, and how he could be kind now and murderous just a few seconds later. It made me think about times when I’m playing the slots and I’d like nothing better than to punch the casino machine in anger or frustration. The movie does an incredible job of showing us all the drama that went on while trying to make Vegas what it is today, but I think it also tries to show how all men have both a good and a bad side.