Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Bullets Over Broadway


It’s hard to recall another Woody Allen film where people actually get killed. In fact, there is seldom any violence at all; people in his films tend to hurt one another with their words, not their fists or firearms. Several people are killed in this one, but it’s not at all bloody.

And it’s definitely a comedy. John Cusack is one of those insufferable playwrights who feel their work can change the world. Okay, he’s young. But he believes it, and thinks he’s ready to defend the immortal words of his crap play to the death. But he hasn’t met Jennifer Tilly yet. He hasn’t been able to get financing to get the play produced until his agent, Jack Warden, finds a gangster whose idiot, talentless, shrill, stupid moll wants to be an actress. He agrees to bankroll the play on the condition that the silly twit gets a part in it. So that’s Cusack’s first compromise.

He compromises more and more, and the funny thing is, most of the things he gives up make it a better play. The amazing Tracy Ullman is cast. Then an over-the-hill Broadway diva, played brilliantly by Dianne Wiest (she won the supporting Oscar for this). Then one of my favorite character actors, Jim Broadbent, as a man who compulsively eats whenever he gets a role. He fattens up considerably during rehearsals, when he is always stuffing his pockets with food.

But the key player here is Chazz Palminteri, who got an Oscar nomination. He is the tough bodyguard who has to look after Tilly. He is bored witless sitting in the seats day after day and seeing this crap play rehearsed. So he begins to pay attention to it … and finds ways to make it better. Much better. Soon Cusack is turning to him whenever there’s a problem, and he promptly solves it. Not long after that he has become a full-time collaborator, and the virtually the play’s author. See, he knows how the real world works, while Cusack has had his head up his philosophical ass all his life. But Chazz has a fatal flaw. It turns out that he is the one who will do anything for his art, and will not accept compromise. There is one terrible thing about the play that he can’t do anything about, and it’s clear to everybody as well as him. And that is Tilly. She is awful, is not going to get any better, and she’s ruining the play. But for a practical man, a man who has made his living killing people, the solution is obvious …

It is set in the 1920s, and it looks just terrific. It’s a great little movie, and I love the way it ends. In fact, I like everything about it.