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USA 1994
Directed by
Woody Allen
99 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Bullets Over Broadway

Allen’s favourite structuring narrative device, one which he probably first established with Crimes and Misdemeanours (1989) is to take a moral issue and create a setting and story for his characters to illustrate its ramifications. His success with the technique is variable but Bullets Over Broadway is a particularly delicious example of it and the best he's done for a while, perhaps because of having a co-writer (Douglas McGrath) saviing him from his worst traits, recycling his own gags (one of which delivered by Rob Reiner about writing a play a year is a particularly good in-joke).

John Cusack plays David Shayne, a serious-minded playwright with a script that he can’t get produced. When his producer (Jack Warden) connects him with a mobster (Joe Viterelli) looking for a vehicle for his bimbo girlfriend Olive (Jennifer Tilly), David is initially horrified but desperate for recognition, sells out with little resistance. Cusack is, of course, Allen’s alter ego (noticeable particularly in the voice-over in which Cusack seems to emulated Allen’s distinctive phrasing), the schlemiel who finds himself out of his depth.

What makes Bullets Over Broadway especially entertaining is the marvellous roster of characters that Allen creates and the cast who play them. There’s leading lady Helen Sinclair (a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winning role for Dianne Wiest, who also won the same for Hannah And Her Sisters, 1986) and leading man, British thespian Warner Purcell (Jim Broadbent, as ever, perfect in his role), the abovementioned Jennifer Tilley as the air-headed Olive and Chazz Palminteri as Cheech, a mob enforcer with a flair for words. And it‘s set in the 1930s, a period which as we saw with Radio Days (1987), Allen does particularly well with help of his first class production team.

Usually Allen's films suffer from his absence but Bullets Over Broadway is strong enough to stand alone. 




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