Review: Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

Bullets Over Broadway


Woody Allen
Woody Allen, Douglas McGrath
98 min.
John Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Tilly, Chazz Palminteri, Mary-Louise Parker, Jack Warden, Joe Viterelli, Rob Reiner, Tracey Ullman, Jim Broadbent, Harvey Fierstein, Stacey Nelkin
MPAA Rating
R for some language

Buy on DVD



Years seem to sail by between viewings of movies I enjoyed originally. 1994’s Bullets Over Broadway is a film I should have revisited sooner. The film is about a struggling playwright whose past work has been butchered by careless directors who has finally decided to step up and force himself on his next play as a director. However, to get the film financed, his producer decides to take on a business partner of questionable means, a mobster who demands his moll’s receipt of a part in the finished play.

Woody Allen’s films are most often set during the present where New York intellectuals spout endless platitudes and philsophies expounding the virtues of their beliefs while seemingly acting hypocritically towards them. Bullets Over Broadway is one of his rare period pieces set during the Prohibition era. And with prohibition comes mob violence and in New York City, it’s an integral part of the town’s history. John Cusack plays the semi-neurotic writer trying for a hit and Jack Warden is his anything-to-get-funding producer. Joe Viterelli takes on the role of the mafia don with his acting-aspiring moll played by Jennifer Tilly and his right-hand man and her bodyguard Played by Chazz Palminteri. Joining Tilly in the cast of the play are legendary stage veterans played by Dianne Wiest and Jim Broadbent, and a young thespian portrayed by Tracey Ullmann. The star-studded cast also features Mary-Louise Parker as Cusack’s girlfriend, Rob Reiner as his playwriting best friend and Harvey Fierstein as Wiest’s agent.

The film blends most of Woody’s best assets: engaging dialogue, interesting characters and strong performances with all the grace and beauty you would expect out of a mob film set in the 1920s and 1930s. It’s an amazing blend that works exceedingly well, managing to be both entertaining and revealing. I’m often on the fence when it comes to Woody, but this has to be one of my favorite films of his. It’s genuinely funny and appealing on more than just an intellectual level.

Although everyone delivers top-notch performances, the film would be nothing without the undeniable talents of Dianne Wiest. Helen Sinclair is somewhat of a departure for Wiest whose characters have tended to lack confidence, but which were ultimately likable. She has the ability to play awkward with the best of them and although she still managed to be typecast in those types of roles, here she was exuberant, confident and egomaniacal. And she did it all while remaining believable and hysterically funny.
Review Written
September 27, 2010

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