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This is a movie that was released in 2007, and is about the life of Frank Lucas (Denzil Washington) a gangster who was caught bringing drugs back to America, on military service planes that were coming back from Vietnam.
He was eventually caught by detective Richie Roberts, played by Russel Crowe in the movie, who is not trusted by his colleagues working in the tough New York district, because he handed in nearly a million pounds in dirty money. Apparently this is something which the cops of New York did not like, and his honest and moral actions, lead to him becoming a outsider in the force.
One thing this movie does not really touch upon is how Frank Lucas's got out of the business, after being caught selling a massive amount of drugs to the people of New York. He did not spend the rest of his days in prison, solid and confident of his reputation and place back out on the streets, instead he turned on his family and friends, giving all there dirty little secrets away. The result was a short sentence for Frank, before being let out to live a hidden life away from the world and the people he knew.
This movie starts out with Frank as the Limo driver and right hand man, to another Harlem gangster Bumpy Johnston. But when Bumpy suddenly dies from a heart attack, it is up to Frank Lucas to make sure that Bumpy is paid everything he is owed out on the street. People thought with Bumpy's death, it would also be the death of his organization, but a ruthless Frank Lucas has other idea's and put the fear of life into the competing gangsters.
Frank makes a business move which has never been done before, at least by a black American gangster, he went to the source for his drugs, and a trip into the jungle in Thailand, he was able to do a deal which would give him the strongest and purest drugs in America. This product was the making of Frank and his family out on the street, and they started to take over.
Frank starts getting it from all angles, as dirty cops want a piece of his action and good cops want to arrest him, and he is making the Mafia unhappy by taking there business. Denzil Washington plays a briilliant Frank Lucas in this movie, yet I have never really seen him play a character that he hasn't been able to bring alive on the television screen, and make completely convincing. But it was Russel Crowe that really surprised me in this movie, I was never really a massive fan of his work, but was very happy to watch his performance in this movie.
These two famous actors come together to create a really great movie, anybody who enjoys gangster
flicks will love this, as it is much more than just another gangster flick. It has been produced wonderfully, and you can tell by watching that a lot of money and time and effort, has been put into the making of this movie, The soundtrack is excellent, and it enhances the movie, making it even more entertaining when watching.
Overall this is a great movie, the 100 million dollar budget that was used to make it has been put into good use, and all the actors do a great job. I think the movie is put together so well, that even people who do not usually really like gangster movies could well still enjoy it, the ultimate story of the good guy bringing down the bad guy, trying to make the community a cleaner and better place.
This was a movie I really enjoyed and if you are yet to try it out, then this is a movie that comes highly recommended from me.
In the already abundant genre that is American gangster films, Ridley Scott's 'American Gangster' shows real legs. Okay it's not Coppola or Scorsese, but what film can hold up to such a standard of perfection?
Denzel Washington gives another memorable performance as real life drug kingpin Frank Lucas. His is a performance that is, of course, quintessentially cool. And yes, themes are very similar to those found in such films as Blow, Goodfellas, The Godfather ... if you get sick of those themes then you're not human/ male. And if you get sick of the quintessentially cool Denzel Washington then you must have seen 'For Queen & Country'.
Another delight to be found in this film is the ever changing gut of Russell Crowe as untouchable policeman Richie Roberts. Crowe commands an entertaining amount of screen presence which cannot wholly be attributed to his gravitational pull.
Whether 'American Gangster' is Ridley Scott's best film is highly contentious - as his career is littered with classics. However, it does remain in contention. And what a testament that is to the quality that this film possesses.
Running time 157 minutes
American Gangster is the story of Frank Lucas(Denzel Washington), and his rise from being a driver to the top crime boss of Harlem.Frank is pretty much unknown unitl the the death of his boss Bumpy.This is where he steps up and becomes powerfull, he has a unique way of importing heroin direct from South East Asia.This means the stuff he is selling is pure and alot chepaer than any of his competitors,and he begins to gain power and wealt he used to only dream of.It also follows the story of Riche Right (Russel Crowe).He is an honest cop who ends up being in charge of a federal narcotics team.Based on a true story the film follows both characters through their struggle to outdo one another.Will Richie and his team be able to stop Frank and his mafia buddys.
The storyline is very good and gives both actors alot of scope to portray their characters.It is not exactly orignial though its like a ghetto version of scarface filled with unneccesary crap.The film is way to long and alot of the sub stories become boring espically Richies,His love interest and battle with his ex wife becomes extremley tedious and had me thinking that i dont really care about any of this and was starting to bore the ass off me.Eveything is explained in to much detail.its uneccesary it tries to be the godfather but fails big time.
Denzel Washington is very good in his role though and his ruthlessness portrays Frank brilliantly.He is the only positive thing about the film really,he does hold it togehter.The direction and soundtrack dont bring anything new to the table.i found myself wanting to just skip hole chapters as they seemed pointless and boring.Im guessing it was to show you in great detail about each of the characters lives,but it gets boring and i dont really need to know half of the crap that went on.Both storylines remain seperate throughtout the film when really all i wanted to see was them come togehter in more scenes, instead you wait the whole film for a really dull anitclimax.
The backdrops and scenery are perfect for the 70s,and do give the film a nice depth and feel.Ridley scott has dissapointed her with some real cheesey moments,the gangsters giving out thanks giving turkeys to the poor,despite the fact it is tem making them poor.Its like New Jack city meest the Godfather but crap.
Overall a very dissapointing film it could have been so much better than it was but Ridley Scott was simply not capable of making it happen.Personally i would wait until its on tele to watch it i would not purchase this film.
I had visions of this being a masterpiece, it had been hyped up so much. What with awards nominations and rave reviews, big names such as director Ridley Scott and actors Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, and it being based on quite an interesting true story, I was really looking forward to it.
And yes, it is good. Was it as good as I had expected? Probably not. It follows the the life of drug lord Frank Lucas (Denzel) who sets his business in Harlem, defying the age old acceptance of the mafia being the biggest drug runners in New York. After many failures and finding himself at the last chance saloon as far as his career goes, detective Ritchie Roberts (Crowe) tags onto the rumour mill and slowly but surely edges towards catching Lucas. This would be a multi-billion dollar operation stopped in its tracks. Or, it could be disastrous. Either way, one of them will find their career is over....for good.
The acting from the two leads, let me just say, is of the high standard you would expect from two such names. While not their best roles, they are both on top form. Denzel is perhaps a little devoid of emotion, and a little too much the same as some of his other roles, but it's still a captivating performance. Crowe is entirely believable as the unfit and rather slouchy looking Roberts, although the brain is sharp.
The support roles are quite convincing, with Chiwetel Eijofor deserving a special mention as one of the Lucas brothers, and Ruby Dee as Ms Lucas. Scott's directing takes all the characters to a believable level, giving them just the right amount of screen time. This being Ridley, he injects quite a bit of action, and some immediate and violent scenes that help to keep the story flowing, despite it being well over 2 hours long.
The violence does lose some of its impact though, as it starts out overly violent, and fades a bit, missing some of the emphatic nature it probably should have given. Indeed, the whole film is a bit like that, not making me sit up and think 'wow' at all. Every now and then we are reminded that it is drug dealing we are supposed to be focusing on, and I found myself siding with Denzel a few times before realising that he's the bad guy, and his drug distribution is what's killing people all over the place.
Overall, an enjoyable film but just doesn't deliver any killer blows for its duration. It kept me watching for the entire 2 hours plus, and I enjoyed it, but I expected it to be so much more. It is very good, but don't get your hopes up too much.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
American Gangster is an extremely stylish gangster film, and that's hardly any surprise - Scott has had a few duds lately (like A Good Year), but he's also a master of style, as he proved with recent efforts like Matchstick Men. The man knows how to create a mood, and in American Gangster, this is one of his best instances, backed by two towering performances by Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.
The premise revolves around the war on drugs in 1970s Harlem. Washington plays Frank Lucas, whose ascendancy we observe as his predecessor, Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Clarence Williams III), dies in 1968. From here, Lucas comes up with the rather clever idea of hiding drugs in the coffins of returning soldiers who died in Vietnam. However, opposing him is Newark Police Department detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), who is desperately trying to mount an effort to bring him and the organised crime outfit in Harlem to its knees.
What differentiates Roberts from most of the other police officers is his belief in justice - the majority of the other cops take the bribes, whilst Roberts himself at one point exposes a huge police bribe, and is thus seen as a pariah in the department, as no police will expect him to cover their backs.
What the film harkens to is something better resembling the "golden age" of crime that has all but disappeared today - back then, there wasn't bling or pimps or huge limos for gangsters, but they had a certain respectability, and always took care of those around them, something which Lucas embodies through and through. His family are the most important thing, and when their lives are threatened, he gets absolutely livid.
From its almost sepia tone, to strong direction from Ridley Scott and commanding performances from Denzel and Crowe, this is a fairly unoriginal but thoroughly entertaining slice of crime cinema that really harkens back to the 70s with strength.
American Gangster is... well it's an American Gangster film. Released in 2007, it was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington as the main stars. The film is based on the true story of Harlem gangster Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) and his rise to fame and glory as a drug lord during the 60s and 70s. The film follows the journey of Frank Lucas and of detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) who is put to investigate the recent influx in drugs.
*So what is the Plot?*
Frank Lucas inherits $100,000 dollars as well as the turf of his former employer and father figure; the renowned and idolised local gangster Bumpy. With this money he decides not to invest safely in bonds or an ISA, he goes straight for heroine.
Meanwhile Richie Roberts, the average-Joe detective, whilst studying to become an attorney and refusing to be bought out like his fellow colleagues makes it his mission to clean up this influx of heroine.
The film follows both characters separately until their inevitable collision.
*How does it fair?*
The film was shot using 180 locations in New York, this made for a really authentic view of the city. Instead of the usual set like feel often found in films, you really get a feel for Harlem in the 60s & 70s.
Washington's performance is solid, though not great. The character is caught in two minds and you get the sense so is Denzel about how to play him, he doesn't show that evilness inside him or that compassion for his mother in the most believable fashion. However, Russell Crowe was his usual good self and his character with his cheap suits and bad habits suits him very well. Sorry Russell! Other standout performances are; Josh Brolin, star from No Country for Old Men, as a bent detective and the 83 year old Ruby Dee as Frank Lucas' mother.
The film does look at black rights during the film but does little for it. Whether Ridley Scott overlooked this part of the film or whether it was just lost in translation. It just portrays the black Harlem community in a highly negative way when clearly not all members of the community joined in with criminal activities, and clearly a lot must be said as to why these activities were resorted to. Maybe I'm just being a bit to overly politically correct, but I think something was lacking here.
The film is torn between being gritty and violent, or a groovy take on the 70s. The tone is set in the first scene for the violence and I think this is to the detriment of the film as nothing after this is shocking. Meanwhile the scene where girls pack the heroine completely nude, in order to stop them stealing the "merchandise", should comes across as quite comical which is the opposite.
*A few facts*
The film is a certificate 18, this is due to the drug taking in the film, though there is violence, it's minimal. There is not much swearing in the film, I hardly remember any, no worse than after watershed program on TV.
The film 157 minutes, so it's long, it drags on a little at times. However, the extended version lasts 19 minutes longer and is included on the DVD. Even though I said it drags on I'd have to recommend watching this version as it adds a little more information to the plot. I'm not sure this is the kind of film you will want to watch twice so it's probably worth spending that extra 19 minutes for a little more closure.
*Extras on DVD*
As mentioned there is the Unrated Extended version as well as the standard Feature commentary which has director Ridely Scott and writer Steven Zaillian. I can't comment on how good this is as I'm not really a fan of film commentaries and decided not to watch it.
Really the simplest summary would be, though there's nothing you won't have seen here before in other Gangster films it is well worth watching if you are a fan of this genre. After watching it, and spending a while thinking what to put in this review I'm still not really sure whether I'm a fan of it or not. I suppose a good gangster film comes down to those memorable moments, I can think of a handful from Goodfellas and The Godfather even though I haven't watched them for a while. I only watched this film 2 days ago and I struggle to think of a scene that you will remember or even a quote.
I guess it all boils down to the fact the film has a lot of unfulfilled potential and didn't live up to the hype, but it is no way a disaster.
Not my normal kind of film, I wasn't too impressed when my husband put it on, and made me sit down and watch it with him, but seeing as I had just made him watch PS I love you, it was only fair...and I must say although I was aprehensive, I was impressed with this film, and found that I actually liked it.
The film is about drugs basically, and as you would guess from the name, gangsters!
The film follows the life of drug dealer Frank Lewis in Harlem USA, Lewis has found the best of best heroin, pure from Vietnam, as this film is set during the Vietman war, he enrols his cousin who is in the army to bring over 200,000kilos of the "Blue Magic" as he names it, in doses for him to sell all over the US for cheaper than the normal price. This is good for the drug addicts...not good for the competition. And Lewis manages to make alot of enemies. On the other side of the law is Richie Roberts, a police officer...and one of the only straight officers in the force, he won't take bribes, he doesn't do drugs, and he doesn't do favours, and like Lewis this doesn't make him a popular man!
Roberts knows there is this "Blue Magic" on the streets of the US, and he is determined to discover where its coming from, but with 1/3 of the police force on the side of the bad guy, he isn't getting very far and Lewis isn't even on his radar.
Elsewhere, Lewis is roping his family into helping his traffic the drugs and sell it, so he doesn't have to get his hands dirty, and so he can reap all the benefits. A beautiful wife, properties all over the country and a monopoly on the drugs business.
Thats all I'll say on plot line! This is based on a true story, and this all really happened during the 1970s in America, which made the film more enjoyable for me somehow!
If you don't like action films, I don't really think this film is for you, films like Lock Stock and Two smoking barrels, Train Spotting, Layer Cake, City of God, Blow are very much in the same calibre of this film, and so if you liked any of those films, you'll like this!!!
A great host of actors including Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the two main parts of Lewis and Roberts.
Surprisingly good film!
Cuba Gooding Jr.
What a film! I watched the extended version last night on DVD, and to be honest at first, I kept having to ask my husband to pause it to explain bits! Then all of a sudden, it all starts to fall into place. The film last nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes but I didn't want it to end. As its based on a true story too, I was even more into it!
The cast was second to none, with Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington playing the lead roles. Denzel Washington plays an amazing role, and it was nice to see him in something as gritty as this, and the 'bad guy' for once. The film was written by Steve Zaillian and directed by Ridley Scott.
This was by far the best gangster film I have ever seen, it almost took on a 'Robin Hood' type feel, and I actually liked Denzel Washington's character in the film, and didn't want him to get caught! Strange seen as though he was at the top of the gangster world, above even the mafia, dealing hard drugs and murdering! You will understand when you begin to watch!
The plots begins with Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, who is a respected Gangster controlling most of Harlem. He teaches his second in command, Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), how to gain the same respect, looking after Harlem and its people so they in turn will look after him. Bumpy then sufferers from a heart attack, and dies, basically leaving Lucas in charge.
Frank decides to play the game differently to Bumpy, and instead of getting his supply of heroin from middlemen, he decides to head straight to the supplier in Bangkok, where the stuff is 100% pure, and cut it. He uses his cousin in the military to bring the drugs back, and gives it the catchy name 'Blue Magic'. He sells a better product for a cheaper price than his competitors do. This turns out to be a lucrative idea, and he is soon buying mansions here, there and everywhere! He brings his cousins, brothers, nephews and mum, and basically moves them all in and gives them a job (except for his elderly mum of course!). There's also the love interest, of Miss Puerto Rico who is also Miss World.
On the other side, we meet detective Ritchie Roberts (Russell Crowe), who finds $987,000 in the trunk of a car belonging to the mob. Being a good cop, he hands in the money, making many enemies along the way in the police force. By the end of the film, you realise that 75% of the police force were on the books of the dealers. As you would imagine once both characters have been introduced, we have a classic cat and mouse chase, with the good cop and the major drug importer, gangster, etc.
I could get a little carried away here and end up telling you the whole plot so I'll leave it at that! I hope that I have told you enough to make you want to see it! You MUST see it!
Run Time: Theatre 158 minutes, but extended version is 175 minutes
Ridley Scott's American Gangster is a good film -- and I mean "good" in the sense that it has similar elements to the classic gangster hits that many of us grew to love.
It's familiar, yes, but unfortunately that's also the film's main problem; it doesn't quite have enough to convince us that it is worthy of our attention, especially considering that it is only one film in a huge catalogue of very good films within the same genre. On top of that, it's just too long.
Based on the true story of Harlem drug dealer Frank Lucas, Denzel Washington is the man with the desire to cut out the middle man and obtain a purer product at a better price. He travels to Bangkok to discuss a deal with the Chinese nationalist general and his cousin, who is currently serving as a soldier in Vietnam. After all is agreed, the drugs are transported back to America via military service planes and sold on the streets. Lucas soon develops a reputation as the most respected and feared ruler of inner city drug trade.
Out to stop him is Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), a cop who is distrusted within a majority of the precinct for his honesty in turning in $1 million in drug money (shades of Serpico here). When Lucas' 'Blue Magic' crosses his path, Richie is put in charge of a newly created task force that aims to stop the drug flow on the streets and put Lucas behind bars for good.
American Gangster is never boring, but it's never overly exciting, either. Now I know Ridley Scott likes to emphasize character development, but I really feel as if he overdoes it sometimes. Here, for example, there are various subplots -- such as Roberts' custody battle and his random sexual encounters with women -- that are just not needed. This is supposed to be a story about one of the most distinguished organized crime bosses, not Roberts' personal life.
Still, I managed to excuse the above point at the time of watching in hope that I would see some big face-off between the old-school bad guy and old-school good guy, similar to that of De Niro and Pacino in Heat -- the film was two-hours-forty- minutes long after all. However, I think Washington and Crowe spent about ten minutes together overall, and I was left feeling disappointed.
Individually, at least, both actors can be credited for solid performances.
Washington is the seemingly laidback most of the time, though we always get an inkling that he is capable of some serious damage if pushed too far. This is particularly evident when he ends up shooting one of his old adversaries in broad daylight and then calmly goes back to finish his breakfast at the diner, as if completely unfazed.
Crowe is as compelling as we've come to expect, even if his character is overwritten. He's performance is easily on a par with Washington's.
Overall, what American Gangster lacks is memorable scenes. Aside from the aforementioned street shooting scene, I'm really struggling to think of another that really stands out. It's not necessarily Ridley Scott's fault, however, as this genre of movie is so full with great movies that it's becoming harder and harder to come up with something new to preserve in our memory as time goes on.
I blame The Godfather for setting the standards so high.
(C) Andy Carrington, 2009.
[as part of andycarrington.co.uk]
This film follows the rags to riches story of a small time crook during the vietnam war. With a little intelligent thought and an eye for legal loopholes and bribery he makes it as a big time gangster. Denzel Washington is superb but you'd expect nothing less and Russell Crowe is faultless. There are a few problems however. One of which is the length of the movie. It is about an hour too long and too much time is spent during the movie where very little happens and this decreases the intensity of what would be an amazing spectacle. Another issue is the lack of action. The title suggests a gangster film and in most gangster films you'd expect an excess of unnecessary violence. Perhaps this is me being crude but I felt a little disappointed at the sparingly dispersed snippets of violence that occurred. As a result I thought the film was a little bit of an anticlimax.
Set in New York in 1968, American Gangstar is based on a true story about the drug problem that became a huge issue during the war in Vietnam. When Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, takes over his mentor as crime lord, he starts a whole new radical campaign to smuggle heroin from Vietnam using corrupt members of the military. He gains the heroin at a higher percentage than the current levels and sells it cheaper, taking the city by storm and causing complete chaos amongst the city's already corrupt police force.
Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe is one of the few anti-drug inforcement members who is not corrupt and driven by money. He is assigned to lead a squad in taking down the drug empire and must find how Lucas is managing to bring the drugs into the country.
The film is a little slow going, but the plot speeds up and becomes very entertaining, and the presence of Denzel Washington is excellent and trully believable.
That's better, back on to movies, all that talking about crisps and books has brought me out in a sweat. Anyway here goes, I remember the reason why this caught my eye at the time, and why I subsequently went to go and see it at the cinema, it was because I had bought a lads mag (I forgot which one), who ran a piece of the real story of the main gangster in this film, his revolutionary ideas about how to smuggle drugs into America and some of the things he got away with, and some he didn't. I'm a sucker for a true story, that these people actually existed, I think it's a much better base for a film or a book than a completely fictional tale.
The film is based around Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), he works for one of the local black mob leaders in Harlem who dies at the beginning of the film through natural causes, Frank as the right hand man is pushed into the limelight and now has to try and run the affairs with limited sums of money and not a lot of street respect. Frank was brought up with respect in his blood, he doesn't believe in living the life of a film star and he doesn't believe is working for a man that does.
The film is set in 1960's when America was at war with Vietnam, back then the popular drug of choice was Heroine, on hearing a report on the news he decides to go directly out to Bangkok to see his cousin that works in the military. There he sees just how strife the heroin problem is. The problem as he sees it is that the heroin on the streets of Harlem has been cut down so many times so that the end product is just powder rather than anything of any substance, Frank wanted to get right in front of the makers and cut out all the middlemen.
Frank manages this amazing feat by having the drugs brought back via Military aircraft, paying all those along the way good money so as their eyes wouldn't wander and he would get his shipments. What he is then left with is a product he can sell on the street that is twice the potency but he can sell at half the price. The effect of this is Franks one man show begins to grow and he soon becomes one of the biggest Gangsters in America where even the Italian mobs are forced to buy off him.
But we wouldn't have a film without a bit of cat and mouse action, and in this case the cat is Detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), here is a man who gets every single aspect of his life wrong but police work. At the beginning of the film they show Richie and his partner uncovering just short of 1million dollars in unmarked bills in the back of a deserted car, this was a time when every single cop would have back pocketed it, but instead Richie hands it in, the result, no cop trusts him or his partner and whatever he does from now on will have to be alone.
Eventually Richie gets his own drug squad, not small time dealers allowed, only significant arrests, this is where the cat and mouse action begins as Richie as to find out who is bringing the drugs into the Country, and also how. You will have to watch the film to find out the rest.
You think of most actors and you can name good movies they have been in, and you can name bad movies they have been in. But with Denzel even if the film he is in isn't great, his performance always is. This is no exception, the character of Frank is a cool and calculated character, who doesn't like to take ricks and expose himself but at times erupts in fits of rage. This is kind of character that Denzel can play flawlessly and he certainly manages it in this.
Russell Crowe is painted as a bit of Lothario in this which didn't make an awful lot of sense to me, it shows times where he is working out and he certainly hasn't been spending an awful lot of time in the gym, but apart from the characters traits Crowes acting as a special forces officer is great, he platys a neutral role quite well and there is nothing sensational about the way in which he conducts himself.
I enjoyed this throughout, it isn't the quickest or most action paced film you have ever seen, but it moves at a fluid pace and keeps the cat and mouse sport going throughout. Such was the exceptional directing and cast performances.
Some elements of the film are very dark, both including violence and also there are scenes of nudity, so not one for the kids this, even if you do let little Johnny watch films that are perhaps a little bit too old for them. The other problem is that we know just how destroying heroin can be and yet this is rarely pointed out during the film, I mean it shows people doing stupid things to score a fix, and a couple of scenes where people have died, but no real element is shown just on how much heroin brought communities to it's knees.
The thing I remember walking out of the cinema and thinking was 'holy mother, what a businessman', Frank was a guy that built his empire up to the point where they are still making films about him Forty years later, which is a fair testament.
Now I'm not a massive gangster movies fan, I was watched the majority of the classics, but what was different about this is obviously it was the Italians doing the organised crime and that it was in fact black people providing for black communities and the different ethics that went along with that. How much is true I don't know, but it certainly was nice to see a different viewpoint.
Buy it now from amazon on DVD for £5,48 or blu-ray for £13.68
IMDB members give it 8/10 from over 93 thousand votes, I think that's a fair reflection.
Based on true events, Ridley Scott's 'American Gangster' tells the story of 70's cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) and his attempt to gather evidence and ultimately bring down crime-boss Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington).
Lucas has achieved wealth and notoriety by selling heroin on the streets of New York, which he has sourced himself from the jungles of Vietnam - however, will the gangster hiding behind the masquerade of family-man and community benefactor meet his comeuppance, or will Richie Roberts get his man?
The first half hour of the film acts as an introduction to both Lucas and Roberts, and illustrates what both men are capable of - good and bad. The two lead characters are portrayed as polar opposites of each other in terms of their values; Roberts gets in trouble with his own corrupt police department for being too honest and handing in stolen cash, while Lucas has no problem in killing, and selling drugs to make money of his own. At the same time, behind the illicit activities, Lucas is the family man, whilst the honorable Roberts is struggling to keep hold of his wife and child. Ridley Scott has cleverly played on this 'opposite but the same' notion, which makes you as a viewer unsure which of the characters to identify with.
The film reminds me of Scarface, in the way that Denzel Washington's character comes from nowhere and ends up at the top of his trade. I'm sure Ridley Scott sensed the similarities between the two films, and as a result, has stamped his own trademark imagery onto the production - with abundances of ambient lighting, smokey rooms and generally arty sequences scattered throughout the piece.
I must admit, it did take me a while to get into American Gangster, and I found the first hour dragged a little - however, the second part of the film became more of a 'cat-and-mouse' style thriller, along the lines of the excellent 'Heat', which leads the viewer nicely into the inevitable confrontation. The movie does last for roughly three hours, and while that may put some people off, it probably needed to be that length in order to fully elaborate on the details surrounding the lives of both lead men.
Denzel Washington puts in a solid performance as Frank Lucas, although I doubt it was a stretch of his acting abilities as i've seen him portray a very similar style of character in a few other films. He is occasionally menacing, but is far more laid back than the Scorcese style gangsters which keep you on the edge of your seat, and have an air of unpredictability about them.
Russell Crowe's character for me was the most interesting in the film - the ultimately honest cop who is trying to do the right thing. I don't know how accurate Crowe's portrayal of the real Richie Roberts is, but he manages to make the character seem quite likable, albeit with a misunderstood charm.
Josh Brolin has a decent part as Detective Trupo, a corrupt cop who interferes with the lives of both Lucas and Roberts. Trupo is a nasty piece of work, and Brolin effectively portrays this in his acting. You know he's putting in a good performance because as a viewer, you want him to get his comeuppance as quickly as possible!. The film also features what's little more than a cameo from Cuba Gooding Jr, who plays a drug seller who angers Lucas by selling goods with the same brand name as his own. Whilst Gooding's short role is interesting, it isn't fully developed, and doesn't bear much relation to the outcome of the movie.
I found American Gangster to be a well made and polished film which kept me interested due to the fact that the story is based in reality. The high quality of acting further enhances the experience, yet some of the scenes don't quite flow, which is surprising considering the calibre of the director. It just feels that from time to time that something is missing - perhaps it's the fact that although it's a three hour film, the actors don't share any screen time until the very end section.
No, the film isn't original - as I mentioned earlier, it has resemblances to Scarface, Heat, The Godfather, and Serpico to an extent - yet even though it's all been seen before, I found American Gangster to be an enjoyable watch. The way two stories are told from two different perspectives is cleverly done, and although clumsy at times, on the whole, it makes for pretty good viewing - recommended.
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Denzel Washington - Frank Lucas
Russell Crowe - Det. Richie Roberts
Chiwetel Ejiofor - Huey Lucas
Josh Brolin - Detective Trupo
Lymari Nadal - Eva
Ted Levine - Det. Lou Toback
The DVD version of American Gangster costs £4.98 from Amazon, and is rated 18 for scenes of violence, nudity, drug use and swearing.
I watched American Gangster for the first time on New Years day. I wasn't sure if it was the appropriate film to be watching on the day as well, let's face it....I had had a skin full the night before!
I was overall very impressed with the film and in fairness to it, it perked me up no end and made me forget about my hangover.
The plot is one of crime in the 1970's there are huge amounts of drugs, prostitution and street warfare. Drugs as we all know are worth millions of dollars and if you can provide a source of drugs better and cheaper than your competition, you will inevitably make a lot of money. the secret though is to ensure that no one ever really knows that it is you selling it and that no one ever discovers your source of drugs.
In the film the lead (played by the great Denzel Washington) is up against the tough cop (Russell Crowe), the one thing that marks this cop out from others is his belief in law and order and justice....most of the others prefer to take hand outs from the thugs sellng the drugs.
The film shows us how drugs can fund the apparent respectability of some families and how people will turn a 'blind eye' to serious crime when oney and power are involved. Denzel Washington's character goign head on in the street with som ecompetition is a reminder of this...and a serious one at that too.
This film is quite long, but has a good soundtrack to accompany it and is very reminiscent of 1970's crime dramas. the costumes, hair and sets are brilliant.
I wasnt sure what to expect with this film as I had heard mixed reviews of it, but on the whole I was pleasantly surprised.
Im not a massive fan of films with a lot of gratuitous violence but thankfully with this one there wasnt a silly amount or any that seemed to be there just for the sake of it, however, if you have any kind of phobia about needles the volume of close ups on junkies doing what they do best may not be to your liking.
I thought that Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas was very good, he looked in peak fitness too and the whole slick 70's styling suited him and was very consistent. I was fascinated by the story, being based on a real life character and set of events.
Russell Crowe had certainly piled on the pounds for his role here but he too was pretty good (although I thought his accent slipped appallingly a couple of times). All in all this was a thought provoking, interesting glimpse into the world of gangsters, junkies and the cops who either work with them or against them. Even though it was quite a long film it went pretty quick.
Ridley Scott (Spy Game)'s American Gangster chronicles the life of a Harlem drug lord (Denzel Washington) and the cop (Russell Crowe) who tried to bring him to justice.