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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lesson in not juding a book (dvd) by its cover
American Gangster is one of those films that I was put off buying, on the assumption it would be a 'blood and guts', 'shoot 'em up' type of film, and indeed my heart sank when I watched the opening scene. I needn't have worried though, AG is far above most other recent films of this genre, with a depth to it (allowed for no doubt by being based on a true story) that tends...
Published on 25 July 2011 by FiTP

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite amoral but.....
‘American Gangster’ (2007) is a first-rate film which lives up to its title – albeit with a romanticised and not exactly factually-based production by Ridley Scott (who also directs with his usual excellence). The screenplay(Zallian), cinematography (Savides), editing (Scalia) and music (Streitenfeld) are all good – and yet for me there is a flaw;...
Published 1 month ago by BobH


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4.0 out of 5 stars A good story, well directed and worth seeing, 21 Nov 2007
By 
Bernard Smith (Somewhere, Europe) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: American Gangster Extended Edition [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
The film is set in the 60's and 70's and it starts with Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) driving for a local Harlem gangster "Bumpy" Johnson. Lucas not only drives his boss around, but he learns the tricks of the trade, the people to know, and above all the rules for running a successful crime business. When "Bumpy" dies we see Lucas gradually emerge as a major actor in the drug business, but with a twist. He imports directly from Asia, delivers quality dope and undercuts the prices being offered by competing gangsters and police (they cut the dope they confiscate and sell it back onto the streets). Lucas comes across as a good businessman: he brings in his extended family to ensure fidelity, he bypasses intermediaries, he delivers a quality product at a reduced price, and he keeps a very low profile (at least initially). He can be extremely violent and clearly does not care about the pain and destruction created by drug dependency (and there are some harrowing scenes thrown in for good measure). And lastly he's black, and everyone knows that blacks are at the wrong end of the value chain - they consume drugs that are imported by the Italians.
Just as we see Lucas emerge as the hidden king of drugs we also see Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) as a super honest detective in a world full of cops on the take. Despite the fact that he is studying to become a lawyer, his drinking and extramarital antics is leading to a divorce and custody battle, he lives in a hovel, and he has a really disastrous dress sense.
As the film roles on we see Lucas become a rich family man with a beautiful wife (very much the American Dream - anyone can be successful and rich if they have a good work ethic and respect their mother and family) and we see Roberts increasingly under pressure to find out who is providing quality dope at discount prices. But we see Lucas become more visible and finally attracting the attention of Roberts. We hardly ever see the two central characters on the screen at the same time, and the film does not really focus on the police technicalities but more on the overall sense of malaise in the police force. Anyway Roberts finds out how Lucas is importing the drug from Asia, arrests him and turns him into an informer in order to bring down half of New York's boys in blue.
In some ways it is the usual confrontation between good and bad, and Washington and Crowe give good performances, but neither of their characters really create much sympathy. The film is well directed, but at 2 hours 40 minutes it is perhaps a bit too long (after the scene is set there is a 15-20 minute dull period before the "ending" kicks in and looks almost rushed). I like the actors, Ridley Scott, and this type of film, so it is not surprising that I gave it 4 stars. What is more surprising is that women appear to also like the film.
It's not a great film, but one certainly worth having in your collection for the quality of directing and the good acting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great crime epic but nothing new, 20 Nov 2007
By 
O. Parker "opark_77" (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: American Gangster Extended Edition [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
I thought this was a great movie. Washington and Crowe both turn in excellent performances as titular gangster Frank Lucas and straight laced investigator Richie Roberts respectively. The film continually contrasts their personal and professional lives; Lucas is a family man and neighborhood beneficiary on top of his succesful drug distribution network. Crowe has the harder part as the slightly less interesting troubled cop - he drinks, he whores, he is going through a divorce and custody battle but he is also as straight as an arrow in an almost wholly corrupt department. It is long at 2 hours 40 minutes but thats a requirement for crime epics.

The supporting cast do well with little. Idris Elba (Tango) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (Nicky Barnes) are good with few scenes as Lucas' potential rivals and an uncredited appearance from Charles Washington III as "Bumpy" Johnson brought a lot of gravitas to limited screen time. I'd happily watch sequels on any of their Harlem drug dealers. Lucas' family is full of actors I don't recognise apart from Chitewel Eijifor, who gets the most screen time as his slightly flashier and somewhat unreliable brother. Roberts squad is rounded out by John Hawkes and TI as similarly minded cops. An antagonist for both leads is provided by Josh Brolin's unrepentantly dirty cop Detective Trupo. Brolin is suitably menacing and despicable. I was somewhat distracted that his squad seems to be rounded out by bit players from The Sopranos.

The period setting of the 60s and 70s is well handled. Crowe wears some awful shirts and many of his squad look homeless as they work undercover. Lucas' is well attired but the Harlem neighborhood is in a constant decline. Montage sequences are the films flashier moments and do well to quickly convey the toll of Lucas' business on the addicts he supplies. Visits to Vietnam help to contrast New York and add some of the films most memorable moments as Lucas gets his importing direct from the source in place.

Lucas is a fascinating character; he's quiet and reserved but capable of explosive violence and he takes a business minded approach to drug dealing with terrifying results. Some of my favourite scenes in the film show Lucas' careful approach to his business and the lessons he learned from Bumpy. Roberts is less engrossing and the films comparing and contrasting of the two men doesn't seem to lead anywhere. Roberts' unit's investigation is not followed in enough detail to make complete sense of it and so the progress they make is not rewarding for the viewer and the custody sub-plot does little to enhance Roberts' character.

Scott's direction is a bit standard, nothing spectacular but he tells a good story here. He does seem to have borrowed from the greats of crime direction - club scenes are reminiscent of Scorcese, family gatherings of The Godfather, drug dealing and taking montages call to mind The Wire and the well staged bust at the end reminded me of scenes from Joe Carnahan's Narc. Having made a comparison to The Wire I'll say that I felt the majority of the similarities were superficial as I've read some reviews that suggest that TV show influenced this film.

The film as a whole doesn't do anything new but it does what it set out to very well. I was looking forward to this and I was not disappointed. However, I'm a fan of the genre so I imagine it won't be for everyone. A must see if you liked The Godfather, The Departed or Goodfellas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Gangstar, 14 Jun 2013
Ridley Scoot made a class movie about Frank Lucas played by the talented Denzel Washington who portrayed AKA Frank Lucas who ruled Harlem's Chaotic drug underworld and not for getting the man who stopped him Richie played by Russell Crow all I can say is this film just reminds me of Scarface great movie and a epic cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor , Cuba Gooding Jr , Ted Levine , Armand Assante John Ortiz , John Hawkes , Rza . but did this film win any Oscars no they even got Frank Lucas to help them out this is not just a movie this is a master piece.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gangster cracker lead by two powerhouse actors., 4 Dec 2014
Down the years some of the best films i have seen are gangster or mafia type movies with the likes of Goodfellas,The Departed and Donnie Brasco being prime examples.
This Ridley Scott epic is up there with the best mainly because its partly based on a true story(which makes it more believable)and stars two of the finest actors Hollywood has in Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.
For a film close to three hours it flies by with excellent acting,action,twists and turns and builds to a great climax.
Denzel is normally the good guy but of the few times he plays the villain he is simply superb and his turn as a very dodgy cop in Training Day proves it as he won a Oscar for that and should of done here too and you still tend to root for him even though he is a bad en.
Crowe also gives one of his best performances as the determined cop out to catch Washington's kingpin and stop his heroin empire.
Their meetings bring back memories of the electrifying showdown between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in another classic Heat as well as the classic meeting between Batman and The Joker in comic book masterpiece The Dark Knight.
The rest of the cast excel too including Josh Brolin,Chiwetel Ejiofor and a early big screen role for Idris Elba who a few years down the line could probably lead this film with his success with Luther and The Wire.
A hard hitting gangster epic and another classic from Ridley Scott.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars epic gangster tale, 28 Oct 2013
ridley scotts dark edgy gangster epic is a flawless masterpiece,powerhouse performances from all the cast.this is big and gutsy all the way,a riveting and compelling watch. inspired by a true story and set in the gritty era of the70s, set pieces are brilliantly shot and dircted by scott,it looks amazing on bluray,with both versions avalable on this disc its a must buy and add to your collection.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superior writing and role for Denzel, 12 Sep 2012
This review is from: American Gangster Extended Edition [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
Another Denzel masterpiece of acting. The storyline seems almost made for him; combining intensity, charm, and ruthlessness. For decades, he quietly works as a chauffer for the King of the Harlem drug trade, learning the business from top to bottom in the background. After Bumpy dies, Frank Lucas (Denzel) turns out to be a brilliant protege. He single-handedly changes the entire drug business. He imports uncut product direct from Thailand, arranging transport through the military, In short order, he obtains obscene wealth and power. Along the way, he lays down the law, ruthlessly killing anyone in his way, in a moment's notice...and marries Ms. Puerto Rico.

Side note; I recently watched Wall Street 2, and really liked the acting performance of Josh Brolin as Bretton James - ruthless Wall St. kingpin. In the back of my mind, I couldn't remember other roles by him. He plays a fantastic scumbug dirty cop in American Gangster.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Denzel is the Pull for this DVD, 2 May 2013
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This review is from: American Gangster Extended Edition [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
Although it had two top performers it definitely lacked something in the story line also it was a bit over the top with the ending. Don't think i'd recommend it
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Far from being Scott's best work, it still however is a riveting crime picture., 27 July 2012
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: American Gangster Extended Edition [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
This is the true story of 1970s Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas who submarined the Mafia gangs by importing his heroin uncut direct from Thailand, and thus able to corner the drug market with cheaper prices. On his trail is Richie Roberts, one of the few honest cops operating out of his corrupt department.

American Gangster may turn out to be one of the most divisive films in Ridley Scott's cannon, gone are the visual traits that are beloved by so many of his fans, and in comes straight forward story telling, heavy on plot and filmed as a near to a documentary style as Scott has ventured thus far in a mainstream picture. I have no doubt that cries of Scott merely dipping his toes in crime picture waters from the past will be used against him, and for sure there is nothing remotely new in the Steve Zaillian screenplay here to make anyone sit up and take notice. But I applaud Scott for making, what on the page looked to have been a run of the mill crime caper, into a riveting character study. Full of 70s fashions and police procedural gusto, American Gangster lifts itself above the average crime capers of yesteryear because it boasts two of the best actors working today in the lead roles.

Russell Crowe plays Richie Roberts with much restraint, and it's thru this restraint that the character becomes more believable, Roberts has his issues for sure (notably of the romantic kind), but his unflinching deep rooted belief in honesty gives the character an earthy aura, and it's down to Crowe that the character succeeds on the screen. Taking the honours here, though, is Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas, full of zest and charming menace, he infuses Lucas with credibility as both a caring family man and also a merciless crime lord. Great performances, both. American Gangster is a fine film on the screen, but on the page it looks to be lacking in bravery or any sort of invention, but it's nice to see Ridley Scott taking on yet another genre and at the very least making it a notch above many other directors best works in the epic crime caper pantheon. 9/10

Footnote: I have recently caught the extended cut which has a further 17 minutes added to the original theatrical release. Of most interest is the alternate ending that is nice as regards watching Crowe & Washington share more screen time, but in light of the big picture you can see why it was cut. Stick with the theatrical version is my honest opinion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a film!, 27 Jun 2011
This review is from: American Gangster Extended Edition [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
This film is up there if your GoodFellas and Godfathers, the film has the twist that the main gangster protagonist is black and not from the Mafia or irish, jewish gang etc.Washington in great and so is Russel Crowe.
Going to keep this short snd sweet. A must or any film collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film!, 29 May 2010
Don;t think this is going to be a classic like Goodfella's (but hey, that IS a hard film to follow), but still a good story, acted well and tense in the right places. Well worth a visit.
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