Levinson's Bugsy is painted against a vast tableau as sprawling as his Avalon and Rain Man. Bugsy is his most sophisticated film to date, a celebration of an outlaw's scheme to turn sand into gold; not for profit, but for love of a woman called Flamingo. [20 Dec 1991, p.24]
He’s a real smoothie, Warren Beatty, and when he plays one in a movie he is almost always effective. But his title role in Bugsy is more than effective, it’s perfect for him - showing a man who not only creates a seductive vision, but falls in love with it himself.
Extracting a meat-and-potato slickness from the screenplay by James Toback (a sucker for facile laughs), director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) provides a good chunk of entertainment if not much creative risk. Fast-paced in its first half, Bugsy eventually slips into a stall, especially in the clumsy scenes where the protagonist tries to handle domesticity with his long- suffering family.
It's a shame that Levinson's pace is so stately and that his staid directorial choices fall short of the risky work undertaken by his actors and scriptwriter. Bugsy's life cheated his own genius; this movie cheats the genius who would embody that life. [13 Dec 1991]
One wishes Beatty would stay out of the epic business, but in that poor man's defense, he's become too large, too much of an icon on the screen to do much else. Perhaps he's doomed to play cartoon characters as he did last time out in Dick Tracy. His Bugsy is not anything close to a fully realized character. Bening, as his starlet/moll, does a better job, but her role doesn't give her much to work with.