Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lansky (1999)

Cool TV movie with Richard Dreyfus as Meyer Lansky, partner of Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel and co-founder of the Flamingo and, ostensibly, Las Vegas. We watch him witness anti-semetism in his native Russian country, and then from the Italians as he rises in the mob stateside. A numbers man, he makes a name for himself through numbers and business management, leaving the heavy work to his more violent, sociopathic friends (Luciano and Siegel, played by Anthony Lapaglia and Eric Roberts, respectively). The film, scripted by Mamet, flip flops between the end of Lansky's life and flashbacks filling in the rest, and it flows well without sustaining too much tension, due to the fact that we know he lives through the most dangerous events of his life. Mamet's contribution, inevitably, is great, evocative dialogue, that paints the portrait of these 3 legendary figures in concise, controlled strokes. The women get shafted; as his wife, Beverly D'Angelo replaces Illeana Douglas (as another character) without ANY fanfare. The highlight, inevitably, is Dreyfus. He gives a thorough, nuanced, and introverted performance that warrants the feature film surrounding it. His younger incarnations are also strong, but it is when he carries the picture that it truly earns merit. Roberts and Lapaglia are also having a blast playing these legendary gangsters.

Recommended for those interested in the formation of organized crime and Las Vegas and fans of Richard Dreyfus. The quality is on par with the stronger HBO movies (Grey Gardens, Recount).

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