A slow burning, yet entirely gripping, mobster film, American Gangster
pits Denzel Washingtons Frank Lucas against Russell Crowes law enforcer Richie Roberts. Spread over a necessarily prolonged running time, their story is then brutally, expertly, told.
And while American Gangster isnt in the league of prime Scorsese and Coppolla classics (such as Goodfellas and The Godfather), its the nearest weve come in quite some time to something of that ilk. Its all based on a true story, which does mean you need to forgive it some of its obvious narrative conventions, yet this also lends it a gravitas that the film eagerly makes the most of.
Its great too to see British director Ridley Scott tackling meatier material again. This is the man, after all, who gave us Blade Runner, Alien and Gladiator, and he duly delivers with American Gangster. His finest work it isnt, but an engrossing, explosive and hard-as-nails drama it absolutely is.
Whats more, American Gangster is powered by two of the finest leading man working in Hollywood right now, and its terrific to see Washington and Crowe on top form here. And while in cinematic terms its hardly a film that treads new ground, its nonetheless a proper, grown-up and engrossing movie, and a very good one at that. --Jon Foster
is based on a true story and set in 1968 Harlem, where Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is a driver for Bumpy Johnson, one of the top figures in the city's criminal world. When Bumpy dies, Lucas swoops in, taking over his predecessor's empire and expanding it over the next few years with his sale of a particularly potent brand of heroin. Meanwhile, New Jersey cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) begins to investigate the New York drug world and discovers that there's a new power in town. Thanks to screenwriter Steve Zaillian, as well as Washington and Crowe, American Gangster
creates a convincing portrait of two men who are neither entirely good nor entirely bad. Washington plays Lucas as a man who buys his mother a palatial home but doesn't hesitate to beat his brother's head against a window. Crowe's Roberts may turn in a million-dollar find, but he cheats on his wife. Sadly, they only meet onscreen toward the end of the film, but the minimal interaction between the two Oscar winners is fascinating. Even though the focus is on Lucas and Roberts, American Gangster
is filled with a wealth of strong characters played by talented actors, including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Ted Levine, John Hawkes, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Carla Gugino, Ruby Dee, Joe Morton, and rappers T.I. and RZA. It's an epic film, with a run time of over two and a half hours, but it's time well spent. Fans of classic crime films such as The Godfather, Serpico
, and Carlito's Way
will certainly be pleased by this addition to the genre.