John Cusack
Jack Warden
Tony Sirico
Dianne Wiest
Chazz Palminteri
Jennifer Tilly
Michael Broadbent
Tracy Ullman
Mary-Louise Parker
Rob Reiner

Woody Allen


Time: 107 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Crime

Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Wiest). Nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Palminteri), Supporting Actress (Tilly), Art Direction, Costume Design, Director and Original Screenplay.

Without a doubt my favorite Woody Allen flick from the 90s. BULLETS is an intricately written and deeply funny screenplay brought brilliantly to life both in front of and behind the camera. Thankfully, Allen had the sense to cast Cusack in the role he usually reserves for himself. The story takes place in 1920s New York and centers on David Shayne (Cusack), a struggling young writer trying to get his first play produced on Broadway. Though his girlfriend Ellen (Parker) believes he's a genius, he is plagued by self-doubt. His happiness at finally finding a backer – gangster Nick Valenti (Viterelli) – quickly turns to abject horror when he is forced to cast Valenti's bimbo girlfriend Olive (Tilly) in the play. She is so dumb and untalented he gives her the smallest female part. Unfortunately, it's the role of a psychiatrist, a word she can't even pronounce, yet is expected to play.

Olive's presence in the show devastates David, however, his mood picks up dramatically once he is able to gather his dream cast in the other roles. His hope is that their talent will conceal Olive's many shortcomings. The presence of the world-renowned Helen Sinclair (Wiest) does wonders for his ego...and eventually his sex life. The usual cast squabbles ensue as rehearsals begin with all the actors vying for a bigger piece of the spotlight. After a few readings it becomes clear that the play isn't working. Everyone begins to put their two cents in, even Olive's bodyguard Cheech (Palminteri), who's forced to sit through every rehearsal. David is stunned that everyone, including Ellen and Helen, think that Cheech's ideas will make the play better, causing him to have a major meltdown. He threatens to quit, but the allure of a Broadway hit is too strong for him to resist.

"She ruins everything she's in. She ruins things she's not even in!"

Wanting more than anything for the play to be a success, David secretly turns to Cheech for plot advice. When the actors love the new direction of the story, David begins to feel guilty for pretending the ideas are his. It's great to hear how wonderful you are, except when you know it isn't true. The play has already ruined his relationship with Ellen and is threatening to permanently debilitate his integrity. Every meeting with Cheech eats away at his soul, leaving him more and more unsatisfied with his chosen profession. As time goes on and opening night looms, Cheech's emotional attachment towards the production causes him to take the matter of Olive – she's destroying "his" work – into his own hands. Hilarity ensues as the chaos of the big night turns deadly, causing our "hero" to realize that there's more to life than being a famous writer.

Cusack joins the Allen tradition by proving that leading men can be completely neurotic and yet still extremely attractive. The role of David gives him the chance to show a less cool, more adult side than his usual cinema offerings and he nails it. Wiest finally gets the glamourous female lead in an Allen production and is brilliantly funny in it. Her turn as the intelligent, vibrant and cunning Helen Sinclair deserved every accolade she received. Allen wrote a great part, but she makes it her own, oozing desperation and confidence from every pore. Tilly is at her most annoying, which is just what her part calls for. She makes Olive so obnoxious you almost feel like cheering out loud when she meets her unfortunate fate. Palminteri brings humor, depth and soul to a character type that usually speaks with his gun, not his head. His performance/character is the film's biggest surprise.

The fact that the film was nominated for Oscars for its' costumes and art direction speaks for itself. BULLETS is certainly one of Allen's most stylized films and he pulls off the period wonderfully from the clothes, to the sets, to the music. You are truly transported back in time for this raucous ride on the train to theatrical stardom. If you like backstage comedies, you'll love this picture. Even if you don't, it's still one of Allen's best, showing a wilder, less introspective side than usual. An intelligent comedy gem well worth the time spent.

home | reviews | actors | actresses | film heaven | all reviews